- The Washington Times - Friday, May 25, 2007

RANGOON, Burma — The military government yesterday extended the house arrest of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi by another year, a government official said, defying an outpouring of international appeals.

Mrs. Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has spent 11 of the past 17 years in detention and the order will keep her confined to her residence for a fifth straight year.

Her current one-year detention order was due to expire tomorrow and the extension had been widely expected, although many international groups and world leaders had called for Mrs. Suu Kyi’s freedom. The government normally makes no official announcement of such actions.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the United Nations’ human rights specialist for Burma, said the decision was “counterproductive in terms of making a transition to democracy.”

“They say they are moving ahead, but they continue to hold 1,200 political prisoners, including the main members of the opposition,” he said by telephone from Cape Town, South Africa.

The first sign of the extension came when a silver-gray Toyota with tinted windows was seen by neighbors entering Mrs. Suu Kyi’s compound at 3:55 p.m. The car was assumed to be carrying government officials because she is allowed no visitors. They stayed for about 10 minutes.

A government official confirmed that the car carried officials presenting Mrs. Suu Kyi with a new detention order. He asked that neither he nor his agency, which is concerned with security affairs, be named because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

A U.S. State Department spokesman yesterday renewed the U.S. call for Mrs. Suu Kyi’s release, saying Burma’s pro-democracy community should be permitted to freely exercise its rights.

“And it’s past time as well that they engage in a serious process of constitutional reform and involve the opposition and all other legitimate actors in that country,” said the spokesman, Tom Casey.

On Wednesday, a newly organized group of female U.S. senators sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, urging him to press the junta to free Mrs. Suu Kyi.

Mrs. Suu Kyi, the head of Burma’s National League for Democracy party, has been held continuously since May 30, 2003, when her motorcade was attacked by a pro-junta mob during a political tour of northern Burma. The government considers her a threat to public order and she is not allowed any telephone contact with the outside.

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