Sat, Jul 05, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Myanmar's junta fires back at critics

AP , YANGON

Myanmar nationals residing in Japan shout slogans demanding the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi outside the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo yesterday. A top Myanmar official arrived in Japan yesterday as Tokyo pressed the country to release Suu Kyi.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Myanmar's military government leveled fresh criticism yesterday at foreign diplomats for their role in trying to win freedom for pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The attacks, disseminated through a commentary in the state-run Myanma Ahlin newspaper, came as Myanmar's Deputy Foreign Minister Khin Maung Win arrived in Tokyo with his government's response to Japanese demands for Suu Kyi's immediate release.

Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi has been detained and held incommunicado since May 30, following a clash between members of her pro-democracy party and government supporters in northern Myanmar. At least 30 of her supporters are also in jail.

The detentions have provoked international outrage, and sanctions by the EU and the US. Japan, Myanmar's largest aid donor, halted all new aid to Myanmar on June 25. The government says Suu Kyi will be freed when the situation normalizes.

In the commentary, the Myanma Ahlin said some diplomats visited the site of the May 30 clash and looked for evidence with the aim of "discrediting the government."

"Some diplomats in Myanmar are blatantly supporting and provoking those who rely on foreign nations and holding negative views," said the commentary, in an apparent reference to government critics including the foreign media.

"One should ask if such behavior is in conformity with the diplomatic code of conduct," it said.

The commentary said every country has to impose restrictions for security reasons and diplomats should not misuse their diplomatic immunity by forcing their way into restricted areas.

It did not elaborate, but the newspaper had said last week that some diplomats pushed security officials and forced their way into the houses of opposition leaders.

Yesterday's commentary did not name the diplomats, but it is known that US Embassy officials have visited the clash site and found signs of violence including bloody clothing and numerous homemade weapons. The US government says the clash was a "planned ambush" aimed at intimidating Suu Kyi.

Since being freed from house arrest in May last year, Suu Kyi has extensively toured the countryside, gaining popularity among the rural folk, which apparently is worrying the junta.

The current group of generals came to power in 1988 after crushing a pro-democracy movement. They called elections in 1990 but refused to step down when Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won.

Although the two sides started reconciliation talks in October 2000, no progress has been made and critics believe that the talks were just a hollow gesture by the government to deflect foreign criticism.

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