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UN Envoy: Give Burma's Generals Time - 2003-09-08


The United Nations' special envoy to Burma is urging the world community to give the country's military rulers time to implement political reforms.

Malaysian diplomat Razali Ismail said in Kuala Lumpur today (Monday) that Burma's new prime minister, General Khin Nyunt, should have a chance to work out his promised road map to national elections and a new government.

Mr. Razali said he hopes to travel to Burma as soon as possible to discuss the plan with the prime minister. He also expressed hope the plan is the beginning of a healing process that will bring about the release of jailed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the National League for Democracy.

Khin Nyunt -- who has long been the head of Burma's military intelligence -- promised political reforms in a speech at the end of August (30th), but gave no timetable. He also made no offer to resume talks with the Nobel Peace Prize winner, who has been in military custody since the end of May.

On Sunday, human rights activists in Thailand staged a fast to mark Aung San Suu Kyi's 100th day of detention and to demand her release.

The protesters (from the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development) said the action was aimed at persuading Rangoon to "immediately and unconditionally" release Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

The protest came a day after officials from the Red Cross visited with Aung San Suu Kyi. The officials said the opposition-leader is not on a hunger strike, contrary to earlier reports she was refusing food. The Red Cross officials also said she is in good health.

One week ago, U.S. government officials said they had learned that Aung San Suu Kyi was beginning a hunger strike to protest her three-month detention. Aung San Suu Kyi has been in and out of detention for the past 14 years.

Burma issued a statement Sunday calling the hunger strike allegation "irresponsible and self-centered."

The National League for Democracy won a national election in 1990, but the ruling military refused to give up power. The generals now in power have been running the government since they crushed pro-democracy protests in 1998.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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