Myanmar junta extends Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest (Lead)

May 27th, 2008 - 7:58 pm ICT by admin  

Yangon, May 27 (DPA) In a move likely to spark new international criticism, Myanmar’s ruling military junta extended the house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi by six months, government sources confirmed Tuesday. Earlier in the day, police arrested 18 supporters of the Nobel peace laureate who were protesting her detention, opposition sources said.

Suu Kyi has been under continual house arrest for the past five years. Since returning to the country in 1988, she has spent 12 years under house arrest.

The latest extension of her open-ended detention came on the 18th anniversary of the landslide election of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) in Myanmar’s last general election. The junta refused to recognize those election results.

The 18 NLD members were arrested by plainclothes’ policemen as they marched from their headquarters to Suu Kyi’s Yangon home. They were taken in two vehicles to an unknown destination.

An NLD statement called on the ruling junta to immediately release Suu Kyi and party 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.

According to Myanmar law, the government cannot keep prisoners charged with undermining national security under detention for more than five years.

The detention extension 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 an international pariah for its poor human rights record and refusal to acknowledge the electoral win of the NLD in 1990.

The junta, run by Senior General Than Shwe, is notoriously suspicious of Western democracies and Westerners in general.

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