Pro-junta group defends extension of Suu Kyi detention


Yangon : Myanmar's ruling junta has extended Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest by another year to assure the successful conclusion of the National Convention process, a pro-government group said Saturday.

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"Daw (Mrs) Aung San Suu Kyi's renewed detention for one more year allows the continuation of National Convention to its successful conclusion," said Tin Shwe, chairman of the National Convention Welcoming and Supporting Forces Group, a little-known pro-junta organisation.

The National Convention process, which was started in 1992, is the junta's response to international and domestic demands for democracy in Myanmar. The process entails the drafting of a new constitution, a referendum on the draft and the holding of a general election, all of which may take up to five years.

It is expected that Suu Kyi will be kept under house arrest during the entire period of the process.

"If she is released the National Convention process will be jeopardised, shutting the doors to the emergence of a flourishing, modern democratic government," Tin Shwe told a press conference.

Press conferences and all public gathering of more than five people are prohibited in Myanmar, which has effectively been under martial law since 1988. Only groups that are close to the junta are allowed to stage such events.

Myanmar's military Friday extended Suu Kyi's house arrest until May 27, 2008, as was expected. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate will mark her fourth year under this term of incarceration Sunday.

Altogether, Suu Kyi has spent almost 12 of the past 17 years under detention at her family's Yangon compound, with the past four years in near complete isolation.

The extension of her detention was in open defiance of international appeals for her immediate release.

Suu Kyi, the daughter of Myanmar independence hero Aung San, returned to Myanmar in 1988 to tend her ailing mother.

She was swept up by the pro-democracy movement that had rocked the country that year, and soon became its leader.

Suu Kyi, who was first put under house arrest in July 1989, was given the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. She is the only Nobel laureate currently under arrest.