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Friday October 25 5:10 PM EDT
EU, Japan, Australia Lament Burmese Crackdown
HONG KONG (Reuter) - Europe will press the Burmese junta over human
rights, diplomats in Brussels said on Friday, while Japan and Australia
both voiced concern at Rangoon's latest crackdown on a fledgling
The European Union would ban high-level visits to Burma and refuse visas
to members of Burma's ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council
(SLORC), the diplomats said, adding that the decision was expected at a
meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday.
"The situation in Burma has deteriorated," one diplomat said. "A number
of EU states have indicated the need for a strong signal."
Burma's military government sparked the protest on Wednesday by detaining
a 75-year-old official in Nobel Peace laureate's Aung San Suu Kyi's
National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
Kyi Maung was held for his suspected role in a student sit-in protest the
same day and has yet to be released. He was detained for questioning
after he was seen speaking to two students before the demonstration.
Diplomats in Rangoon quoted an NLD official as saying this week that Suu
Kyi, who was released from six years of house arrest in July last year,
had also been confined to her compound.
A junta official on Friday said Suu Kyi, daughter of the former British
colony's independence hero, Aung San, was free to leave her house but
earlier this week had been urged to stay in.
Suu Kyi could not be reached for comment as a road leading to her house
has been blocked with barricades manned by security police and her
telephone line has apparently been cut.
In Tokyo, a spokesman for the foreign ministry said Japan had that Kyi
Maung had been detained for questioning and that he would be released as
soon as it was over.
"The Japanese government has notified the Burmese government that this
runs against the move towards fostering democracy and that it should
respect the right of free activities by all political parties," the
ministry spokesman said.
"We have consistently asked the Burmese government to act with restraint
and release all those being held for political reasons and have asked
them to follow this in the future."
In Canberra, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer
said the Australian Embassy in Rangoon had been instructed "to express
our strong concern" over (Kyi Maung's detention) and to call for his
"While the full picture is not yet clear this looks like yet another
instance of the SLORC increasing repressive action against the democratic
opposition," the spokesman said.
The United States, Britain and Amnesty International earlier called for
the immediate release of Kyi Maung, who was in Rangoon's infamous Insein
Prison from 1990 to 1995 for his role in democracy movement activities in
A senior official at the foreign ministry in neighbouring Thailand would
not comment on the recent events, but reiterated Bangkok's desire for
Burma to return to democracy.
The SLORC has accused the NLD, and Kyi Maung specifically, of colluding
with some students involved in Wednesday' s protest, during which up to
1,000 students held a sit-in at an intersection about two km (1.2 miles)
from Suu Kyi's house.
The students say the demonstration was apolitical, held to protest the
police handling of a recent scuffle involving students at a food stall.
A similar scuffle at a tea shop in 1988 sparked nationwide outrage
against the military government, leading to pro-democracy street
demonstrations that left thousands dead or in jail.
SLORC, which has applied for full membership in the seven-nation
Association of Southeast Asian Nations trade bloc, never recognised the
results of 1990 general elections in which Suu Kyi's NLD won a landslide