- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 31, 2003

RANGOON, Burma — Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and 19 other members of her party were detained after her supporters clashed with pro-government crowds in northern Burma, a military official said yesterday.

Brig. Gen. Than Tun said the main office of Mrs. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy in the capital, Rangoon, was closed temporarily and that some party leaders had been put under house arrest. Witnesses said phone lines to the building were cut.

The clashes late Friday began when Mrs. Suu Kyi’s motorcade entered the northern town of Dipeyin, where about 5,000 people opposed to her were waiting in the streets, Gen. Than Tun said. The fight lasted about two hours, until police intervened, he said. The crowds were angered by Mrs. Suu Kyi’s recent negative comments about the military government, Gen. Than Tun said.

He said four persons were killed in the fighting and 50 injured but that Mrs. Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, and her supporters were not hurt. He denied reports that her car was shot at.

“For their own security, they are now under temporary protective custody,” Gen. Than Tun said at a news conference, but he indicated that more serious measures could be taken against Mrs. Suu Kyi’s party and said it is too early to say whether it would be declared illegal.

The military, long accused of human rights abuses by Western nations, has ruled Burma for 40 years. The current junta called elections in 1990 but refused to hand over power when Mrs. Suu Kyi’s party won by a landslide.

Mrs. Suu Kyi is on a monthlong tour of the north. She was expected to return to Rangoon on Wednesday, two days before a U.N. envoy arrives to try to restart a reconciliation process between the junta and her pro-democracy movement.

Earlier, witnesses speaking on the condition of anonymity said about 10 plainclothes police officers had entered Mrs. Suu Kyi’s party headquarters, sealed the keyhole of a lock on the front gate and tied a rope around it.

They said phone lines were cut, the officers took photographs of the locked entrance and about 20 police were posted outside the residence of party spokesman U Lwin.

The league’s party flag, customarily flown beside a Burmese flag above the headquarters, had been taken down by late yesterday.

Mrs. Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in May after 19 months. Her release raised hopes of an end to Burma’s long political stalemate, but the violence Friday, which followed weeks of rising tensions, cast further doubt on chances that her party and the country’s military rulers can overcome their differences and negotiate a return to civilian rule.

The government has accused Mrs. Suu Kyi’s supporters of assaulting peaceful protesters and causing public panic during her monthlong tour of the north.

In an earlier incident, Mrs. Suu Kyi’s supporters said a pro-junta group intimidated them and threatened to run over people lining the road waiting to greet her near the northern town of Mandalay on May 25.


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