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Myanmar democracy icon calls her detention illegal

Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Thursday that her long detention was illegal.

Associated Press

Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Thursday that her long detention was illegal.

YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi said Thursday that her recent release from seven years of detention did not signal a softening in the military's harsh, decades-long rule of the Southeast Asian nation.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Suu Kyi called her detention illegal and said she was released simply because the decreed period of her house arrest had ended.

"I don't think there were any other reasons," she said in her small, spartan office, decorated with little except a vase of flowers and a black and white photograph of her late father, Aung San, who helped lead colonial Burma to independence from Britain. "My detention had come to an end, and there were no immediate means of extending it."

The 65-year-old Nobel Peace laureate, set free from her lakeside home Saturday, has made it clear she plans to pursue a democratic Myanmar, also known as Burma, but has been careful not to verbally challenge the junta or call for its overthrow.

Her most recent detention began in 2003 after she was blamed for an attack by government thugs on her convoy. It was extended in 2009 when she briefly sheltered an American man who swam uninvited to her decaying villa. "I never should have faced detention," she said.

Since Saturday, though, the generals and their longtime archrival have had no contact.

"I haven't seen any sign of the junta at all since I came out. They haven't made any move to let us know what they feel about the situation," said Suu Kyi, an unflappable and deeply charismatic woman who speaks with an upper-class British accent.

She added, though, that her goals would not change. "I had better go on living until I see a democratic Burma," she said, laughing.

She has called for face-to-face talks with the junta leader, Gen. Than Shwe, to reach national reconciliation.

On Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon telephoned Suu Kyi, and the pair had a "warm and cordial conversation," Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said. The world body leader expressed his admiration for Suu Kyi's "courage and dignity as a source of inspiration for millions of people around the world," according to Nesirky.

Suu Kyi has been detained for 15 of the past 21 years but has remained the dominant figure of Myanmar's battered pro-democracy movement. More than 2,200 political prisoners remain behind bars.

China jailing winner may delay Nobel

Parts of this year's Nobel Peace Prize ceremony may be postponed because the recipient, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, remains in prison and his family members have been prevented from leaving China to attend the event on his behalf, according to Nobel committee organizers and supporters of Liu. The event will be held in Oslo on Dec. 10 as scheduled, organizers said, but the awarding of the medal and the accompanying diploma and a check for $1.4 million might be delayed. Instead, according to supporters, text messages from Liu and perhaps some of his past writings may be read aloud.

Washington Post

Myanmar democracy icon calls her detention illegal 11/18/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:22pm]
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