Myanmar authorities arrest 18 democracy supportersMay 27th, 2008 - 5:07 pm ICT by admin
Yangon, May 27 (DPA) In a move likely to spark new criticisms of the ruling junta, Myanmar security personnel Tuesday arrested 18 supporters of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi who were protesting her five years of detention, opposition sources confirmed. The 18 members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), headed by Suu Kyi, were arrested by plainclothes as they marched from their headquarters to Suu Kyi’s Yangon home.
They were taken in two trucks vehicles to an unknown destination.
Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate, has been under house arrest for the past five years. Authorities were expected to extend her detention Tuesday, which also marks the 18th anniversary of the NLD’s landslide victory in Myanmar’s last general election of 1990.
An NLD statement called on the ruling junta to immediately release Suu Kyi and NLD vice-chairman Tin O, “who are detained at their homes because of their unrelenting efforts for the emergence of democracy and human rights in the State.”
In apparent anticipation of a demonstration, Myanmar authorities parked five patrol cars, and one paddy car outside NLD headquarters and beefed up barricades on the road outside Suu Kyi’s compound.
Suu Kyi and Tin Oo have been under house arrest since May 30, 2003, when authorities charged her with threatening national security after pro-government thugs attacked her and her followers in Depayin, northern Myanmar, killing 70 NLD supporters.
Since returning to Myanmar in 1988, Suu Kyi, the daughter of Myanmar independence leader Aung San, has spent 12 years under house arrest.
According to Myanmar law, the government cannot keep prisoners charged with undermining national security under detention for more than five years.
Although Suu Kyi’s latest detention period will reach five years Friday, it is widely anticipated that the ruling junta will find an excuse for extending it further.
An extended detention for Suu Kyi is likely to draw a fresh outcry of criticism of the regime by western democracies, who are already in an uproar about the government’s obstructive response to an international effort to provide aid to victims of Cyclone Nargis, which slammed into the country May 2 and left at least 133,000 dead or missing and another 2.4 million people in dire need of emergency assistance.
Myanmar’s military junta has come under harsh criticism for impeding an international disaster relief effort for the victims of the cyclone, although there were signs of it opening up at a United Nations pledging conference in Yangon.
The regime is regarded as a pariah by Western democracies for its poor human rights record and refusal to acknowledge the electoral win of the NLD 18 years ago.
The junta, run by Senior General Than Shwe, is notoriously suspicious of Western democracies and Westerners in general.
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