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REUTER: Japan and US Reactions on S

Subject: REUTER: Japan and US Reactions on SLORC's Blunder 

Japan and US Reactions on SLORC's Typical Blunder 
By Deborah Charles

     RANGOON, May 24 (Reuter) - Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi
forged ahead with her planned Sunday congress despite the arrests of 217 of
her supporters by the military government.
     Senior Burmese officials, meanwhile, were busy trying to woo potential
foreign investors by promising stability and Burma's foreign minister told
his Japanese counterpart that the detentions would be brief.
     Suu Kyi, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, told reporters most of
those arrest were elected representatives of her National League for
Democracy (NLD) party but added that in the last 24 hours non-elected
representatives from the party's youth wing had been detained as well.
     "I think the intention is to try and make it impossible for us to hold
our conference on Sunday," she said. "But we are still going to go ahead
with our plans unless they make it physically impossible for us to do so."
     Suu Kyi, who was released from six years of house arrest last July,
also did not rule out the possibility that she and other top NLD members
might be arrested before Sunday.
     She was speaking inside the compound of her home, where a huge
thatched meeting hall has been constructed to house 200-300 party
representatives and other guests invited to the congress.
      The congress coincides with the sixth anniversary of the NLD's
landslide victory in a 1990 election, even though two-thirds of those
elected were now under arrest.
     The party never took power because the ruling State Law and Order
Restoration Council (SLORC) did not recognise the results.
     The SLORC has denied at home and abroad that it has arrested the NLD
members, with officials saying they have only detained some members for
questioning in order to avoid unrest.
     But news of the arrests led to international condemnation of Burma's
action and threats of economic reprisals by the United States. The threats
come as the SLORC pushes hard to woo international investors with its
liberalisation policies.
     U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Jose Ayala-Lasso has
complained to the Burmese government about the mass arrests of opposition
supporters in Rangoon, a U.N. spokesman said on Friday in Geneva.
     The spokesman told a news briefing that Ayala-Lasso met U Aye, Burma's
ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, on Monday and expressed his "profound and
acute concern after the arrests of dozens of members of the opposition."
     In a rare, strongly-worded protest, Japan's foreign minister called on
Friday for a release of the detainees and an end to harassment of the
pro-democracy camp.
     Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda made the protest to visiting Burmese
Foreign Minister Ohn Gyaw in Tokyo.
     Ikeda told Ohn Gyaw that Japan wants Burma to immediately release the
detained NLD members, to refrain from further arrests and to stop harassing
the group, a Japanese official told reporters in Tokyo.
     Ikeda also warned his Burmese counterpart that Rangoon's crackdown
this week had dampened the enthusiasm of Japan's business community for
investing in Burma.
     The foreign minister dismissed Ohn Gyaw's explanation that as a
developing country, Burma needed to take strong measures to protect order,
saying the arrests had no legal basis and were "unacceptable to Japan," the
official said.
     The United States has also repeatedly deplored the SLORC's actions,
and called for an immediate release of the detainees.
     The U.S. Senate is in the middle of hearings on a bill aimed at
imposing economic sanctions on Burma.
     Suu Kyi, who has repeatedly urged investors not to come to Burma until
democracy is restored, said on Friday she would not be against economic
     "I don't think economic sanctions would hurt the people of Burma," she
said. "I certainly will not protest against them. Not with the way this
government is behaving."
      A U.S. official in Rangoon told Reuters the U.S. State Department had
issued a warning to travellers to Burma.
     "Because of concerns about the actions of the State Law and Order
Restoration Council and the potential for violence, the Department of State
urges U.S. citizens to exercise all due caution...and curtail non-essential
travel to Burma for the time being," he said the statement said.