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NO FUN FOR THE LADY
Suu Kyi prevented from visiting Karen New Year festivities
RANGOON - Authorities stopped dissident leader Aung San Suu Kyi
from attending a New Year's celebration of the Karen ethnic
minority and whisked her to military headquarters where they
warned her, a party spokesman said yesterday.
Four others who tried to get her to attend the Thursday
celebration were detained and are still to be released, said Win
Htein, spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.
He said the four - three NLD members and the patron of the New
Year's event - were arrested on Wednesday night.
Suu Kyi, who was released in July from six years of house arrest
by the country's military government, tried to attend the
celebration in the northern Rangoon suburb of Insein but was
stopped en route by authorities, Win Htein said.
Before being allowed to go home, she was taken to Rangoon Command
military headquarters, where she was told the celebration was a
traditional get-together of the Karen and not a political
gathering, he said.
The military seized power in 1988 after violently suppressing
pro-democracy street demonstrations. It held a general election
in 1990 but then refused to hand over power after a landslide
victory by the NLD.
The Karen New Year is celebrated annually with speeches,
feasting, dancing and music. Insein, a working class
neighbourhood, has a high concentration of Karens. The minority
has been one of the most active in fighting the Burmese
government for greater autonomy in its homeland in the country's
Win Htein identified the arrested men as Khun Myint Tun and Tin
Tun Oo youth members of the NLD; Saw Tin Win a member of the
NLD's central committee in Pa-an, the capital of Karen state; and
Mann Htay Shein, the patron of the Karen celebration.
Win Htein also confirmed a report that an NLD member in Mandalay,
the country's second biggest city, had been detained for
distributing videotapes of the NLD activities.
He said the reason given for the Dec 16 arrest of Sein Hla Aung
was that it is illegal to distribute videotapes without clearance
from the government censorship board. Sein Hla Aung will be tried
on Dec 26, he said.
The US,-based group Human Rights Watch/Asia, in a statement
issued on Thursday, reported that Sein Hla Aung was arrested for
distributing videotapes of speeches that Suu Kyi gives every
weekend to crowds that gather outside her Rangoon home.
Distributing audio and videotapes of Suu Kyi's speeches is the
principal way her message gets out to the people, as mass
political gatherings are still banned in Burma.
Human Rights Watch also claimed that under new restrictions
placed on the NLD, party members must seek permission from local
government officials before travelling within the country or
attending NLD meetings. There has been no public confirmation of
COMMENT BY DAVID ARNOTT
What a gift for cartoonists and satirists. Six years of house
arrest and the scroogey old spoil-sports won't even let her go to
a New Year's party! So much for "unconditional release". Did you
notice that bit about it's a traditional get-together and not a
political gathering? What's that about? Is SLORC defending its
future President against cultural pollution? Perhaps the generals
don't like the idea of the daughter of the national hero
communing with the working classes. Or maybe it's the dancing and
feasting they don't approve of. It's not so funny for the people
who were arrested, of course. Their names are in the article, and
letters might be useful.