Myanmar's military junta extended the detention of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday, ignoring worldwide appeals to free the Nobel laureate who has been detained for more than 12 of the past 18 years, an official said.
The duration of the extension was not immediately known, the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. In the past, the junta has renewed her detention for six-month or one-year periods.
Aung San Suu Kyi was informed of her continued imprisonment by officials from the Home Ministry, who entered her home prior to the announcement, the official said.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest since May 2003, has long been the symbol of the regime’s brutality and the focus of a worldwide campaign that has lobbied for her release.
The extension was issued despite a law that stipulates no one can be held longer than five years without being released or put on trial.
Earlier yesterday, police hauled away about 20 opposition party members who were protesting Aung San Suu Kyi ‘s detention. Witnesses saw riot police shove members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) into a truck as they were marching from the party’s headquarters to her home.
Some of the detainees wore Aung San Suu Kyi T-shirts and others the party uniform, a peach-colored jacket, sarong and cone-shaped hat. Thrown into the truck, two members seated by windows unfurled a 60cm poster of their leader before being ordered to roll it back up.
Aung San Suu Kyi ‘s house arrest — which has been renewed annually — was believed to expire at midnight last night, said Nyan Win, spokesman for the NLD.
With the regime saying nothing, there had been uncertainly about the exact expiration.
The decision comes at a delicate time for the junta. It already is facing international condemnation for the way it failed the Cyclone Nargis relief effort.
But few expected Aung San Suu Kyi to be released, despite urging by both the UN and some ASEAN members.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda yesterday called for her release, saying it would be a way of thanking the international community for its generosity after the cyclone, which killed at least 78,000 people and left another 56,000 missing.
“I hope for the best, but to be frank I’m not optimistic,” he said.
About 20 plain clothes police officers stood guard outside Aung San Suu Kyi’s lakeside house, while six truckloads of riot police were on guard near the NLD headquarters.
About 200 members attended a ceremony inside the headquarters to mark the 18th anniversary of the party’s landslide victory in 1990 elections, which the junta has never honored.
At the ceremony, the party called for the immediate and unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD Vice Chairman Tin Oo.
A statement also condemned and rejected the recent referendum that approved a constitution that would ensure the military a major role in future governments.