YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — A state-controlled newspaper said Wednesday that Myanmar’s military rulers were breaking no laws by holding pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for a sixth straight year.
The junta’s recent decision to extend Suu Kyi’s detention by one year sparked international outrage, with the Nobel Peace laureate’s party and foreign defense lawyers arguing the junta could legally only hold her for five years.
But a commentary in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper said detentions are permissible for as long as six years under a 1975 “Law Safeguarding the State from Dangers of Subversive Elements.”
Yearly extensions must be approved by the Council of Ministers and then by the Central Body, which includes the home, defense and foreign affairs ministers, the newspaper said.
The military regime extended Suu Kyi’s house arrest May 27, despite international pressure to set her free. She has been detained for more than 12 of the last 18 years at her home in Myanmar, also known as Burma.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party denounced the extension as illegal and urged the regime to open a public hearing on the case.
Party spokesman Nyan Win said he usually doesn’t comment on articles published in state-run newspapers, which constantly attack the country’s pro-democracy movement without allowing a response.
But he said the article’s explanation of how it was not illegal to hold Suu Kyi for another year “is legally wrong. The law says that detention period should be a total of five years.”
Nyan Win declined to elaborate because the party will submit an appeal and fight the case in court if allowed to.
An American lawyer hired by Suu Kyi’s family to push for her release also condemned her continued detention as illegal.
“The Burmese junta’s extension of Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest in clear violation of its own law comes as no surprise,” Jared Genser, the lawyer, said at the time. “Adherence to the rule of law is not their forte, and the junta remains deeply concerned about her appeal to the Burmese people.”
How the opposing sides interpreted the same 1975 law differently could not be immediately explained.
The junta also came under fire from the international community for initially refusing to allow urgently needed foreign aid workers to enter areas of Myanmar to assist in relief and recovery in areas devastated by Cyclone Nargis.