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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 
democracy movement.

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 
immediate release.

"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