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Suu Kyi Spends Her 58th Birthday Incommunicado - 2003-06-19


Burmese pro-democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi is spending her 58th birthday in what Burma's government is calling "protective custody." The military government maintains that the detention is temporary.

Burma's Foreign Minister Win Aung has repeated his assertions that Aung San Suu Kyi's detention is meant to protect her against possible attempts on her life.

The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize has been detained since May 30th, after her supporters clashed with pro-government groups at a rally. The government also has detained other leaders of her National League for Democracy and closed the party's offices.

While in Cambodia for a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian States, Mr. Win Aung said Thursday that Burma's military government has no ill will toward Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi.

"One thing I would like to assure you again here: We don't have any animosity against Aung San Suu Kyi," Mr. Wing Aung said.

Win Aung adds that his government is committed to eventually releasing her. He did not say, however, when that would happen.

"When we are saying, on (the) record, "temporary measures," it will be temporary," Mr. Win Aung said.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi's supporters are not convinced. Her 58th birthday Thursday is being marked by protests in major cities across the world, including Bangkok, Seoul, Manila, Washington and London.

The National League for Democracy won national elections in 1990, but the military never allowed it to take power. Instead, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has spent most of the years since under house arrest and many NLD leaders were imprisoned.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was freed from house arrest a year ago, after the United Nations brokered talks between her and the government.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who also attended the Cambodia gathering, expressed disappointment Wednesday over the Burmese government's actions.

"Just a year ago, we hoped for rapid progress toward national reconciliation in Burma. Today we find that Burma has taken a large step in the opposite direction," Mr. Powell said.

While in Cambodia, Mr. Powell also met with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, urging him to ensure fair elections without violence.

Past elections in Cambodia - which will vote for a new legislature next month - have been marred by murders and intimidation against voters and candidates.

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