Myanmar extends Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest
Thursday, 29 May 2008

Aung San Suu Kyi's has been under house arrest for most of the last 18 yearsAFP, YANGON - Myanmar's ruling junta has extended the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi by another year, an official said Tuesday, as 16 of the democracy leader's supporters were arrested.

Seven Myanmar officials went to the lakeside Yangon home that has been Aung San Suu Kyi's prison for most of the last 18 years and delivered the news on Tuesday afternoon during a 10-minute meeting, a state official said.

"Her detention was extended by one year," the official told AFP.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner's most recent period in detention began on May 30, 2003, when her convoy was ambushed while she toured upcountry.

The junta says four people were killed in that attack, but the party puts the toll at nearly 100.

After the ambush, Aung San Suu Kyi was initially confined at the notorious Insein prison, but was allowed to return to her home in September 2003.

About 100 uniformed and plainclothes police, along with pro-junta militia, patrolled around the rambling lakeside house in Yangon ahead of the afternoon meeting.

Earlier Tuesday, about 30 of her supporters tried to march towards her home, but security forces broke up the protest and arrested 16 people including a 12-year-old boy, a spokesman from her National League for Democracy party said.

Six police trucks were stationed near the NLD's rundown headquarters in the centre of the country's main city Yangon, while plainclothes police stood watch from across the street, witnesses said.

The arrests came as the NLD held a ceremony to mark the anniversary of its victory in 1990 elections, which was ignored by the ruling military junta.

Instead, the generals kept Aung San Suu Kyi in detention and pressed ahead with their own "roadmap to democracy," which led this month to a referendum on a constitution that democracy activists say enshrines the army's grip on power.

Forging ahead with the vote on May 10 and May 24 despite a devastating cyclone which left more than 133,000 people dead or missing, the junta on Monday declared an overwhelming referendum victory.

The regime claimed that despite the devastation, 98 percent of voters turned out for the referendum and more than 92 percent had endorsed the charter.

The NLD rejected the outcome, calling the approval of the text a "sham."

"Although the NLD is ready to accept the verdict of the people, based on their free will, it will not be able to accept the sham referendum of the authorities," the party said in a statement.

"The authorities used coercion, intimidated, deceived, misrepresented and used undue influence, and abused their power to get the affirmative votes.... Hence the outcome is not the true judgement of the people."

The party also denounced the regime for holding the referendum after the cyclone, which left 2.4 million people in desperate need of food, shelter and medicine, the United Nations has said.

The NLD said the regime had ignored the public welfare "by obstinately holding the referendum, considering only power politics and self-interest, after the devastation to the people caused by Cyclone Nargis."

International calls for Aung San Suu Kyi's release have been overshadowed by the high-level diplomacy aimed at convincing Myanmar's junta to allow a full-scale relief effort for victims of the cyclone.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was in Myanmar last week for talks with the generals, but said that the country's struggling pro-democracy movement was not discussed as his trip was purely humanitarian.

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