Birthday tributes pour in for Burma's Suu Kyi

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The Independent Online

Thousands of cards have been sent and the Irish singer Damien Rice will release a song to draw attention to the plight of Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi as she marks her 60th birthday and 2,523rd day under military detention today.

Isolated from the outside world and her decimated political party, Ms Suu Kyi is confined to a now dilapidated family house sealed off around the clock by security forces in the Burmese capital, Rangoon. But the efforts before Ms Suu Kyi's birthday are unlikely to lead either to her release or less autocratic rule. The generals have long proved virtually impervious to outside pressure, even to sanctions from the United States.

It is thought that Ms Suu Kyi's only human contacts with the outside world are her two personal doctors, whose visits have been curtailed since last year. Two members of her National League for Democracy do the shopping but must leave packages at the gate. Her only companions are a woman in her mid-sixties who does the cooking and the woman's daughter.

Ms Suu Kyi is able to listen to the radio, read government newspapers and watch state-run TV but cannot receive international channels. She is believed to be healthy and has not been physically harmed by her captors.

Protests were held at several Burmese embassies around the world on Friday and activists delivered 6,000 birthday cards at Rangoon's mission in Washington. In London, about 130 protesters shouted at embassy surveillance cameras and carried signs that read "Free Burma" and "Why are 400,000 men afraid of one woman?"

David Steinberg, a Burma expert at Georgetown University, Washington, says that the generals probably won't release her until after the long-deferred constitution is drafted for fear she would disrupt the military staged-managed process.

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