Myanmar's foreign minister yesterday insisted that pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest was a domestic issue, making it clear that the junta would not succumb to international pressure for her release.
Nyan Win, who is in Malaysia for a two-day ministerial meeting of the Nonaligned Movement (NAM) declined to explain the reason for the government's extension of Suu Kyi's detention on Saturday, or to indicate when she would be released.
"This is not an international issue," Nyan Win told reporters in the first public comments by a senior junta official since Suu Kyi's detention was extended. "This is only a domestic issue."
Asked when the government might lift the house arrest, he said: "You already know that it has been extended."
Nyan Win added that he has no plans to discuss Suu Kyi's detention with his Malaysian and Thai counterparts, both of whom have voiced disappointment over the extension, at the 114-nation NAM meeting.
"The program is tight," Nyan Win said. "We've got no time to meet bilaterally."
Thai Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon said Myanmar's Southeast Asian neighbors will seek to persuade Myanmar to release Suu Kyi "as soon as possible" and to implement democratic reforms.
The "release of Aung San Suu Kyi is very important, and we want to see concrete progress toward democracy," Kantathi told reporters.
"We have sent strong messages to Myanmar," he said. "Sometimes we get disappointed, but it's better to keep the communication channel open with Myanmar in order to interact and send messages. So far we have received mixed messages."
Myanmar's military junta took power in 1988 after crushing a pro-democracy movement. In 1990, it refused to hand over power when Suu Kyi's political party won victory in general elections.
Suu Kyi has spent about 10 of the last 17 years in detention. Besides, hundreds of pro-democracy activists and dissidents have been jailed.
Suu Kyi was most recently taken into custody on May 30, 2003, after her motorcade was attacked by a pro-junta mob during a political tour of northern Myanmar. She has been held at her Yangon residence and not allowed visitors or telephone contact with the outside.
Her previous confinement order, issued last November, expired on Saturday when it was extended again. The government did not specify its duration, but a government official said privately it is for one year.
Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy, vowed on Sunday to take legal action to fight her detention -- a day after the junta ordered the extension of her house arrest in defiance international pressure.