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Annan Urges Burma to Free Aung San Suu Kyi - 2004-03-31


United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged Burma's military government to free pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi ahead of a planned constitutional convention in May.

Mr. Annan's office Wednesday issued a statement in which he said the only way such a convention can have credibility is for all parties to be allowed to participate in it. He also urged the military government in Rangoon to let all political parties and ethnic groups meet freely and conduct peaceful political activities.

Hopes have increased that the ruling generals in Burma will free Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest ahead of the May 17th convention. The government announced its plans Tuesday but did not say whom it would invite to participate.

The convention would be the first step in the so-called "road map to democracy" unveiled by Prime Minister Khin Nyunt last August.

On a different but related subject, the non-governmental Asian Legal Resource Center has told U.N. officials of widespread food shortages in Burma. The center's report blames policies of the military government, which it says deny people's right to food.

The report says officially sanctioned land confiscation, destruction of crops, and intimidation of farmers persists in Burma. It says farmers are arrested and sometimes tortured for failing to produce the required amount of rice in their paddies.

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

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