- The Washington Times - Monday, June 2, 2003

BANGKOK — Burma’s detention of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi comes amid scattered bombings, a crippling international boycott and demands by Washington for an end to the military dictatorship that blocks her from power.

By clamping the charismatic Nobel Peace laureate “under temporary protective custody,” the government ended the spectacle of thousands of people who flocked to hear her criticize the junta during her monthlong northern tour, which was scheduled to end on June 4.

Authorities seized Mrs. Suu Kyi and 19 of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party members in the tiny town of Yaway Oo, about 400 miles north of capital Rangoon on Friday night.

“For their own security they are now under temporary protective custody,” Brig. Gen. Than Tun, a junta official, said Saturday.

Yesterday, Mrs. Suu Kyi was in custody in Rangoon as the military stopped thousands of university students from attending classes on the first day of a new semester as part of broad crackdown on dissent.

Authorities also sealed the NLD headquarters in Rangoon and offices elsewhere in the country, and confined several party members.

The United States, meanwhile, told the government of Burma, officially known as Myanmar, it expects to see the quick release of Mrs. Suu Kyi.

“We have joined with other nations in condemning the placement of Aung San Suu Kyi into protective or any other custody,” Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told reporters yesterday on his way to the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheik for an Arab-American summit today.

“The Burmese authorities say they did it as a way of protecting her during a disturbance. If that is the case, therefore, we expect she will be immediately or promptly released and we have conveyed this through diplomatic channels to the Burmese government,” he added.

In Washington, the State Department also urged the regime in Rangoon to reopen the opposition party’s offices immediately.

“The closing of the NLD headquarters is not consistent with the regime’s interest in providing protection. We urge the regime to allow the NLD headquarters to reopen immediately,” spokeswoman Amanda Batt said.

Mrs. Suu Kyi was in northern Burma, delivering rousing speeches and drumming up support for the NLD, when violence erupted in the town of Dipeyin, where thousands of her opponents clashed with her supporters, according to junta officials.

Mrs. Suu Kyi was not hurt, but at least four persons died and 50 were injured in the two-hour brawl before police restored calm.

Mrs. Suu Kyi was scheduled to meet a visiting U.N. envoy in Rangoon in a few days amid hope that the military could be prodded into a dialogue with her about allowing the NLD to rule. The party won a election victory in 1990, but the military refused to hand over power.

Since then, the junta has been drafting a new constitution without her participation. She was granted freedom one year ago after an 18-month stretch under house arrest — the result of a similar speaking tour that authorities stopped in a rural area. Earlier, she spent several years confined to her stately Rangoon home for engaging in anti-regime activity.


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