Mon, Jul 21, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Media reports suggest Suu Kyi may get banned

AFP , BANGKOK

A series of vicious commentaries in Myanmar's state media targetting democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has raised fears the junta could be planning to ban her party and detain her indefinitely, observers say.

Purportedly written by a disenchanted member of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), the articles attempt to portray her as vain and arrogant and her followers as hooligans bent on stirring up unrest.

The commentaries which began appearing in official newspapers two weeks ago are clearly aimed at blaming the NLD for violent clashes that erupted on May 30 when Suu Kyi and her supporters were ambushed by a pro-junta gang during a political tour of northern Myanmar.

"The finger is being well and truly pointed at the NLD and by extension Aung San Suu Kyi that they were provoking problems throughout this journey," said one Yangon diplomat.

"It could be all part of their plan to perhaps declare the NLD an illegal organization," he said, adding that the hostile tone suggested the ruling generals had no plans to release her.

"Their actions to date would indicate that they're not looking to let her go any time soon," he said.

Apart from detailing the events leading up to the clashes which triggered Suu Kyi's detention, the commentaries are also a clumsy attempt to poison readers against the immensely popular opposition leader.

"Auntie Suu is a willful and hard-headed person liable to rash judgments followed by blind action, in her relations with the present government," said one, referring to her as an "ordinary housewife."

"Nevertheless, whatever the provocation, responsible leaders of the present government, preferring to act with forbearance, and on the basis of give and take, have always chosen to take action in moderation," the commentary said.

One edition ran a photograph of Suu Kyi sitting at a table with the nation's top brass and captioned it as a "family dinner."

"If it wasn't so serious it's hilarious in many ways. It's a great piece of fiction," said the diplomat.

The lavishly illustrated articles, which have recently delved into the realm of romance with details of a purported affair between Suu Kyi's housemaid and a party cadre, have attracted a huge following.

"It is obviously slanted and aimed at discrediting the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi but it makes interesting reading," one city dweller who has not missed one of the nine installments said in Yangon.

"It is so outlandish and spiteful, very few people take it at face value," a local observer said. "It is a clear indication that the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi are in for more troubled times."

The opposition leader's continued detention has unleashed a furious response from the international community, led by the US and the EU which have tightened sanctions and the country's major donor Japan which has suspended all new financial assistance.

But the junta has remained unmoved, insisting that Suu Kyi is in "protective custody" for her own safety and giving no indication of when she will be released.

Debbie Stothard from the regional pressure group Altsean-Burma said the stony response and the vitriol unleashed in the official press make it "very likely" that Myanmar's leader Senior General Than Shwe is planning to ban the NLD.

"It looks like he's decided that he wants to break not just the NLD but Aung San Suu Kyi too, and get rid of the pro-democracy movement once and for all," she said.

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