Myanmar’s military government has extended the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy leader who has spent much of the last 16 years in detention, her political party said Monday.
The National League for Democracy said it was unable to confirm the length of the extension, although under the anti-subversion law being applied, it would be one year. It did not say how the party’s Central Executive Committee, which met Monday, confirmed the extension. The military government has not commented on the reported action.
The United States criticized the move, saying Myanmar’s military leaders should steer the country toward democracy by releasing Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.
“The extension of Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention is yet another step in the wrong direction by Burma’s military leaders,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. Myanmar is also know as Burma.
McCormack said that instead of charging Suu Kyi with a crime, the military leaders were “making the incredible assertion that she is being held for her own protection.”
The Nobel peace laureate was last taken into custody on May 30, 2003, after her motorcade was attacked by a pro-junta mob as she was making a political tour of northern Myanmar.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was “deeply disappointed” by the decision to extend Suu Kyi’s house arrest, said his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric.
Annan reiterated his belief that Suu Kyi’s detention “is not in the interests of Myanmar’s process of national reconciliation and democratization,” Dujarric said.
Suu Kyi, 60, has spent 10 of the last 16 years in detention, mostly under house arrest. She is under virtual solitary confinement at her residence in the Myanmar capital, allowed no outside visitors other than her doctors and no telephone contact.
Suu Kyi’s longest period of house arrest was from 1989-1995, during which she was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize. Her current detention was extended for a year in November 2004.
The latest extension had been expected, since the military government has shown no signs of wishing to talk with the NLD to resolve the country’s political deadlock. The junta took power in 1988 after violently suppressing mass pro-democracy protests. It held a general election in 1990, but refused to recognize the results after a landslide victory by Suu Kyi’s party.
Police car comes, then leaves
Reporters who waited in the street near Suu Kyi’s house on Sunday — when her last detention order expired — saw heightened security and witnessed a police car entering her compound and leaving five minutes later. It was widely assumed that they came to deliver her new detention order, which comes into force when it is read to the detainee.
No one emerged from the house after the police car left, and security personnel remained nearby.
Suu Kyi’s only company is a cook and the cook’s daughter. Visits by her two personal doctors have been limited since last year. Her party leaders have not been allowed to visit since May 2004.
On Saturday in Rome, other Nobel Peace Prize winners urged Myanmar to restore the civil and human rights of Suu Kyi.
“We noticed with great worry that once again we were deprived of the presence and wisdom of our colleague Aung San Suu Kyi,” the laureates said in a statement. “A witness to nonviolence and democracy should not be silenced. This represents a loss for the entire world.”
Human rights groups and several Western governments have issued similar appeals.