Burma accuses UK of helping 'subversive agents'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Burma's military junta, accused of putting the nation's democracy leaders under house arrest at the weekend, lashed out at Britain and the United States yesterday, accusing them of "creating unrest" in the country.

Burma's military junta, accused of putting the nation's democracy leaders under house arrest at the weekend, lashed out at Britain and the United States yesterday, accusing them of "creating unrest" in the country.

The junta said Britain's ambassador in Rangoon, John Jenkins, had overstepped "universal diplomatic norms" when he tried on Monday to get to the home of Tin Oo, deputy chairman of the National League for Democracy (NLD), which is headed by the Nobel peace laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi.

In a speech widely reported in Burma's state-controlled press yesterday, the chief of Burmese military intelligence, Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt, accused "two Western countries" of "creating unrest in the country by agitating a handful of disruptive and subversionist groups who will follow their dictates".

The unusually bitter and specific attack suggests the junta has been stung by the spate of recent criticism that followed their refusal to allow Ms Suu Kyi and her colleagues in the NLD to travel outside the capital.

Ms Suu Kyi, who has championed democratic reform in her country for 12 years, was locked in a standoff with the authorities outside Rangoon for nine days after she and 14 colleagues were prevented from leaving the city. The confrontation ended on Saturday when the group was forcibly brought back.

On Saturday, as the standoff ended, the US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, said: "The United States is outraged and strongly condemns the Burmese authorities' treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi and her party members and the violations of their fundamental human rights."

The Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, said: "We are very concerned. We need to know she is safe, is well. What's happened to her is a scandal."

Exactly what did happen to the democracy leaders after they were brought back into Rangoon in the early hours of Saturday is unconfirmed. Reports say they were taken to their respective homes and confined, but there has been no independent verification, and all telephone links with the individuals have been severed.

Mr Jenkins went to see Mr Oo on Monday to try to find out more. The junta said in a statement that a plainclothes security officer blocked Mr Jenkins's path "to prevent the diplomat from forcing his way" into Mr Oo's house. "It is difficult to understand why a foreign ambassador was so adamant to intrude into the internal affairs of an independent and sovereign nation," it said.

News agency reports from Rangoon on Tuesday said Ms Suu Kyi, Mr Oo and seven other leaders of the NLD had been kept inside their homes "under virtual house arrest" since their forced return. "No visitors have been allowed," the report went on, "and the gates of their homes have been padlocked from the outside."

Yesterday Amnesty International added its voice to the clamour of concern over the fate of the democracy leaders, pointing out that "the whereabouts of the NLD leaders is still not clear, which increases fear for their welfare. If they are being confined to their homes, we strongly urge the Myanmar government to allow them freedom of movement." Myanmar is the name the junta uses for its country.

Burma is ruled by one of the most oppressive regimes in the world. In 1990 the NLD won a landslide victory in general elections, but the junta annulled the result and tightened its grip on the former British colony, forcing many critics into exile and throwing others into jail for long terms.

Ms Suu Kyi, daughter of Aung San, the first hero of Burma's freedom struggle, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her defiant leadership of the democrats.

Despite widespread condemnation from abroad, the junta has yet to engage Ms Suu Kyi in dialogue or take any other step in the direction of reform.

Comments