Myanmar junta extends Suu Kyi’s detention


Yangon : Brushing off calls by the international community for her release, Myanmar's ruling junta has sentenced opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, 61, to another year under house arrest, informed sources said Friday.

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Authorities informed Suu Kyi of the extension of her detention, the sources said.

Suu Kyi will mark the fourth anniversary of her most recent term of detention on Sunday. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has spent almost 12 of the past 17 years under house arrest at her family compound in Yangon.

The extended detention was a rebuff to the international community that has lobbied hard this month for Suu Kyi's immediate release.

Earlier this month, in an unprecedented gesture, 59 former world leaders, including three US past-presidents and 15 Asian ex-presidents and premiers, signed a letter to Myanmar junta leader Senior General Than Shwe appealing for Suu Kyi's release.

On Jan 8, the UN Secretary-General called for Suu Kyi's release along with all other political prisoners and on May 10, the call was reiterated by 14 UN human rights mandate holders.

Laura Bush, wife of US President George Bush, Thursday launched a personal appeal for Suu Kyi's release.

Myanmar watchers judged it unlikely that the regime would hark to such appeals as it would be interpreted as a sign of weakness and would allow Suu Kyi to continue her struggle to bring democracy to the country that has been under military rule since 1962.

More likely would be for the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), as Myanmar's junta styles itself, to release Suu Kyi on a more arbitrary date, to make it obvious that they have not bowed to international pressure.

It is likely that they will just keep her under house arrest until they've finished drafting a new constitution, held a referendum on it and staged a new election, a process that could take up to five years.

But the regime's need to keep Suu Kyi under lock and key indefinitely is the greatest testament to her ongoing political clout as Myanmar's foremost symbol of its struggle for democracy.

"I am sure that the great majority of people still trust her and would follow her, partly because she is Aung San's daughter but also because she represents the very idea of hope in this otherwise demoralized country," said a Yangon-based diplomat.

Suu Kyi, the only daughter of Myanmar's independence hero Aung San, who was assassinated by political rivals in 1948, was arrested in 1989 for criticising the military and kept under detention until 1986.

Her latest detention started in May, 2003, after she was arrested in upper Myanmar while campaigning for the National League for Democracy party, which won the 1990 general election but has been blocked from power by the military for the past 17 years.