Burma's junta warns Suu Kyi's party to cease its 'agitation'

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The Independent Online

Burma's main opposition party has vowed to continue its struggle for democracy despite a demand from the authorities to cease political activities.

Several of the country's state-owned newspapers yesterday published details of a letter the Burmese Home Affairs Ministry sent to Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD). It called on the party to end "illegal activities", including its agitation and opposition to the recently elected parliament. The letter said the NLD had been formally dissolved in September last year when it voted to boycott a controversial election, held at a time when Ms Suu Kyi and up to 2,000 other political prisoners remained behind bars.

Last night, a senior member of the NLD, Win Tin, confirmed the party had received the letter and said it would be writing back to the Home Ministry. He said Ms Suu Kyi had requested a meeting with officials to discuss the allegations of illegal activity.

Speaking from Rangoon, Win Tin, who spent almost 19 years in jail before being released in September 2008, said: "We are going to make our political activities as normal.

"In the coming days we are going to do our political works... we are living according to the law."

The commentary, which appeared in three state-controlled publications, quoted the letter from the Home Ministry as saying of the NLD: "If they really want to accept and practice democracy effectively, they are to stop such acts that can harm peace and stability and the rule of law as well as the unity among the people including monks and service personnel." It also raised concerns about Ms Suu Kyi's plans to tour Burma in order to meet ordinary people and hear their concerns. When she last carried out such a trip in 2003, dozens of her supporters were attacked and killed by militias that support the military authorities. The 66-year-old herself narrowly escaped with her life.

"We are deeply concerned that if Aung San Suu Kyi makes trips to countryside regions, there may be chaos and riots, as evidenced by previous incidents," the letter said.

"The government has said that Aung San Suu Kyi is just an ordinary public member, so it will not restrict her from travelling and doing things in accordance with the law, but she shall honour the laws for the rule of law."

The warning comes as Ms Suu Kyi and her party have become increasingly active after her release from more than seven years of house arrest last November. Her release house arrest came after a controversial election that saw a party backed by the military junta gain the most seats.

The junta claims to have stood back from politics and allowed a civilian administration, headed by President Thein Sein, to take over. The claim is questioned by many observers.

Mark Farmaner, of the Burma Campaign UK, said: "Today's threats will dash the hopes some still held that there could be change coming in Burma. Burma's new dictator, Thein Sein, has revealed his true colours with these threats. He is emerging as even less tolerant of dissent than Than Shwe." News of the warning from the authorities comes a day after it emerged that actress Michelle Yeoh, who plays Ms Suu Kyi in a forthcoming film, had been deported from Rangoon's airport last week.