Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi began a sixth year under detention in Myanmar yesterday, as foreign donors said aid would continue to flow into the military-ruled nation to save cyclone victims.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed regret over Suu Kyi’s continued arrest while praising “a new spirit of cooperation” between the junta and the international community in the aid effort.
In Washington, US President George W. Bush said on Tuesday he was “deeply troubled” by the extension of Suu Kyi’s house arrest but stressed the US would continue to provide aid to the victims.
Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate who has been detained for more than 12 of the past 18 years, had her detention extended by one year on Tuesday, a government official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Her National League for Democracy party yesterday denounced the extension as “illegal,” saying it would launch an appeal.
Party spokesman Nyan Win said the regime should also open a public hearing on the case.
Suu Kyi has long been the symbol of the regime’s intolerance of opposition and the focus of a worldwide campaign lobbying for her release.
Myanmar’s heavily censored newspapers made no mention of Suu Kyi’s detention being extended and the government did not explain under what laws she could be held for another year.
The extension of Suu Kyi’s detention came as Myanmar fended off worldwide criticism for its inadequate aid effort for the survivors of the May 2 to May 3 Cyclone Nargis.
The storm left an estimated 2.4 million people in need of food, shelter and medical care, the UN said. The government said it killed 78,000 people and left 56,000 missing.
Only after intense international pressure and a personal appeal by Ban, who visited Myanmar last week to meet with junta chief Senior General Than Shwe, did the government relent and say it would allow foreign relief workers to travel to the Irrawaddy delta, the area hardest hit by the cyclone.
The UN says some of their foreign staffers have begun moving into the delta and emergency food supplies are being ferried in on its helicopters.