Burma criticises UK as protesters show support for Suu Kyi

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The Independent Online

The Burmese junta yesterday accused Britain of interfering in its domestic affairs as a handful of protesters dare to stage protests in Burma to mark the first anniversary of the house arrest of the Nobel peace laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Burmese junta yesterday accused Britain of interfering in its domestic affairs as a handful of protesters dare to stage protests in Burma to mark the first anniversary of the house arrest of the Nobel peace laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Police arrested two men distributing leaflets about human rights at Rangoon markets and in Mandalay, north of the capital, about 100 students staged a religious procession to honour those who died in the "Black Friday" massacre, believed to have left between 10 and 70 people dead, on the day Ms Suu Kyi was put under house arrest.

Western diplomats urged Burmese military authorities to free opposition leaders and 1,000 political prisoners, and to take immediate steps toward forming a broad-based democratic government. The United States and European Union recently renewed sanctions that deprive the military elite and their families of foreign exchange and visas.

The junta yesterday singled out Britain. "Britain's continued animosity towards the people of Myanmar [Burma] by imposition of economic sanctions to promote poverty, instability and social chaos is regrettable," a government statement said.

After more than 40 years in power, the military regime is as opaque as ever. A constitutional convention, boycotted by the opposition, is widely derided as a rubber-stamp exercise meant to legitimise the status quo.

Last month, hopes were high that Ms Suu Kyi would be set free after one year in her most recent captivity. After her party refused to attend the constitutional convention, her release has been delayed indefinitely.

A British Foreign Office minister, Mike O'Brien, urged regional politicians at the weekend not to miss the only chance to bring about change in Burma. Mr O'Brien also urged the French oil company Total to rethink its investments in Rangoon.

The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) said that seven party members who were arrested last year were freed from prison and a labour camp last Friday. This coincided with the 14th anniversary of the landslide NLD election victory, which the generals ignored in order to cling to power. There was no word on the fate of Ms Suu Kyi or the elderly party vice-chairman U Tin Oo, who is also under house arrest.

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