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Myanmar loosens some strictures on Aung San Suu Kyi

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International Herald Tribune

Myanmar loosens some strictures on Aung San Suu Kyi

Sunday, September 14, 2008

BANGKOK: Myanmar’s military junta will allow the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to receive letters from her two sons as well as some foreign magazines, slightly easing her stringent house arrest, according her lawyer.

The lawyer, Kyi Win, also said Friday that the junta had promised to ease restrictions on her two housekeepers, whose movement has also been limited, according to wire service reports from Myanmar and exile groups in Thailand.

Aung San Suu Kyi, 63, whose party won an election in 1990 but was never allowed to take office, has been held under house arrest for 13 of the past 19 years.

Since her latest detention began in May 2003, she has been barred from receiving visitors or communicating with anyone outside her gated, guarded compound in central Yangon, the country’s main city.

It was not clear why the junta made its small gestures of openness. Aung San Suu Kyi is reported to have refused since early this month to pick up food that is left at her gate by her supporters.

But Aung Zaw, editor of the Thailand-based exile magazine Irrawaddy, said she had emergency supplies of food inside her home. Her party, the National League for Democracy, has reported on her refusal but has stopped short of calling it a hunger strike.

The party said she had turned away food “to denounce her continuing detention, which is unfair under the law.”

“The authorities have agreed to let her receive family mail, read some international periodicals like Newsweek and Time, and lift restrictions on the movement of her housekeeper, Khin Khin Win and her daughter,” The Associated Press reported the lawyer as saying.

“She will most probably accept her food deliveries as some of the concessions she had asked for were smoothed out,” he said.

In recent months Aung San Suu Kyi has been allowed visits only from her doctor and from the United Nations envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, who has seen her several times in the past year.

But on Gambari’s last visit, in mid-August, she refused to see him. Her reasons were not known, but Gambari represents the failure of the United Nations to affect the junta’s behavior despite dozens of similar visits over the years.

Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, paying the highest level visit ever from the United Nations to the junta in May, said he declined to raise the issues of her detention or human rights because he was focused on delivering aid to survivors of a devastating cyclone, which occurred in May.

At the United Nations last week, he renewed warnings that have been repeated over the years to the junta.

“I share the frustration many feel with the situation in Myanmar,” he said. “We have not seen the political progress I had hoped for. We want to see the parties, in particular the government of Myanmar, take tangible steps toward establishing a credible and inclusive political process in the country, which of course must include progress on human rights.”

Almost a year ago, following an uprising led by monks that was crushed at the cost of at least 31 lives, the junta promised, among other things, to stop arresting dissidents.

But the arrests have continued and last week members of the opposition reported that Nilar Thein, 36, who had been on the run for more than a year, had been captured by the authorities.

Nilar Thein is a member of the 88 Generation students’ group who had been active in organizing the protests last year. She was forced to leave her infant child in the care of her mother when she went into hiding.

Amnesty International, the London-based rights organization, demanded her release Sunday and said she was at risk of being tortured, as many former political prisoners have said they had been.

The organization said she had been jailed twice before for her political activities, including a 10-year imprisonment that ended in 2005.

Amnesty said that the junta had arrested 300 people for peaceful political activities so far this year. It said security had been tightened since the last week of August to prevent demonstrations marking the anniversary of last year’s protest.

On Saturday, the state-run The New Light of Myanmar reported that two bombs had exploded at a night spot in a rural town in central Myanmar, killing two people. The government said “terrorists” were involved but gave no details. Small bomb blasts are not uncommon in Myanmar, but their intentions are often obscure.


Written by Lwin Aung Soe

September 14, 2008 at 12:56 pm

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