Burma deports foreign activists

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THE BURMESE government demonstrated again its extraordinary use of the stick and carrot yesterday when 18 foreigners accused of inciting unrest by handing out pro-democracy leaflets were suddenly put on trial, sentenced to five years' jail with hard labour and then ordered to be deported without spending a single day in prison.

The succession of events started when the government abruptly told diplomats that a trial would begin yesterday morning. Within a few hours it was over and the group, consisting of Americans, an Australian, Filipinos, Indonesians, Malaysians and Thais sat solemnly as the sentence was delivered. No sooner had the news sunk in than a home affairs official announced they were to be deported and would not need to go to jail unless they re-entered Burma.

Meanwhile, Aung San Suu Kyi was again detained while making another attempt to meet members of her National League for Democracy who live outside the capital.

She is stranded at a roadblock 100 miles west of Rangoon, where she was detained for six days last month. On that occasion she was denied food and water. This time she is in a van with supplies for more than a week.