Britain - Suu Kyi is being held at Myanmar's Insein Jail

Friday, June 20, 2003

LONDON -- Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is being held under her country's "most draconian" law at Insein Jail near the capital Yangon, where she is confined to a "two-room hut," Britain's Foreign Office said Thursday.

Despite international protests, Myanmar's military government has refused to release Suu Kyi in the nearly three weeks since she was taken into "protective custody" on May 30 after an attack on members of her opposition National League for Democracy party.

Military authorities said four people were killed and 50 were injured, but unconfirmed reports from dissidents claimed far more people may have died.

Foreign Office Minister Mike O'Brien did not say how he learned of Suu Kyi's location. The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who turned 58 on Thursday, is being held incommunicado at an location undisclosed by the military junta.

"I am appalled to learn today, on her 58th birthday, (that she) is being held in the notorious Insein Jail on the outskirts of Rangoon in a two-room hut," he said. "I understand that she continues to wear the clothes in which she was arrested."

Government officials in Yangon, also known as Rangoon, were not available for comment on the statement, issued late at night in Myanmar.

O'Brien called for her immediate release and that of "all other political prisoners."

"The international community will not stand idly by while the military regime continues to abuse the democratic and human rights of Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma," he said.

The Foreign Office said later Thursday that it is in contact with the jail and pressing for Suu Kyi's release.

Myanmar's military junta, which came to power in 1988, refused to step down after Suu Kyi's party won a 1990 general election. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her nonviolent democracy campaign and has spent most of the time since then under house arrest or strict surveillance.

Some feared Suu Kyi may have been injured in last month's clashes because the government has refused to let her appear in public. But U.N. envoy Razali Ismail, who met with Suu Kyi June 10 in a Defense Ministry guesthouse, said she was unhurt and in good spirits. It was unclear at the time whether Suu Kyi was being kept at the guesthouse or was taken there for the meeting.

A Myanmar dissident based in Thailand, Zin Linn, who was in Insein prison from 1991 to 1997, told The Associated Press he believes Suu Kyi is being kept in a special cell, which is similar to a bungalow with a sitting room, bedroom and a toilet. He said it was about 13 by 13 feet square.

John Jackson, director of Burma Campaign U.K., said the location of Suu Kyi's detention was "incredibly worrying" and indicated the authorities might be considering holding her for a long time. "It is critical that the U.N. Security Council now takes the issue up."

The Burma Sanctions Coalition, whose members include Burma Campaign U.K., Friends of the Earth, the Co-operative Bank, Unison, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, called for targeted investment sanctions to cut the regime's economic lifeline.

Although Britain does not encourage trade, investment or tourism links with Myanmar, some Western companies are engaged in joint business ventures in the country.

The European Union has agreed to extend its travel ban and assets freeze on members of the Myanmar regime, their families and associates, and to tighten its arms embargo.

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved economic penalties against Myanmar.

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