Burma refuses to release Suu Kyi

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The Independent Online

International calls for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader who has been held incommunicado by the Burmese junta since Friday, have gone unheeded.

Khin Maung Wing, Burma's Deputy Foreign Minister, denied rumours that Ms Suu Kyi had suffered a head injury during a riot in northern Burma in which at least four people died. He told diplomats that "she was not hurt at all", and added that the 1991 Nobel peace laureate was being kept "temporarily" in a secure place. The minister said the closure of universities and colleges was unrelated to Ms Suu Kyi's arrest, although analysts disagree.

Diplomatic sources said Ms Suu Kyi was being detained at a government guesthouse in Rangoon. Leaders of her National League for Democracy are also in custody. Because Ms Suu Kyi was not put under house arrest at her lakeside home in the capital, some supporters fear she might be badly hurt.

Unconfirmed reports circulating in the Burmese exile community in Thailand claimed her car was fired on, and that as many as 70 people died in clashes last Friday. The government denied this.

President George Bush said Ms Suu Kyi should be released immediately. "We have urged Burmese officials to release all political prisoners and to offer their people a better way of life," he said.

Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary general, called for Ms Suu Kyi to be freed and allowed to play a role in the country's stalled reconciliation process. The junta is likely to bar Razali Ismail, a UN envoy, from seeing the dissident leader when he arrives in Rangoon on Friday. Mr Ismail helped instigate a secret dialogue with the military that resulted in Ms Suu Kyi's release from house arrest in May last year.