Myanmar Extends Opposition Leader's Detention

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Myanmar's military government has promised to ease restrictions on international aid groups seeking to assist the victims of Cyclone Nargis. But it appears that restrictions will remain on Aung San Suu Kyi, the country's most celebrated pro-democracy leader.


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Robert Smith. Steve Inskeep is away on assignment in Pakistan.

A few foreign aid workers are finally getting into Myanmar, weeks after a cyclone devastated that country. Other charity teams are preparing to move into the country, testing the military government's pledge to allow more access to hard-hit areas. But it appears restrictions will remain on Myanmar's most celebrated opposition leader.

NPR's Michael Sullivan reports.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN: Aung San Suu Kyi spent 12 of the last 18 years in jail or under house arrest after a 1990 general election, which saw her National League for Democracy win in a landslide. Myanmar's generals ignored that result and have apparently decided, not without reason, that the charismatic Suu Kyi poses too big a threat to their continued rule to be allowed her freedom.

The U.N. has made her release a cornerstone of its diplomatic engagement with Myanmar's generals in recent years, but it has been remarkably silent on the issue this time around. The U.N. is struggling to persuade Myanmar's military to allow more international aid and aid workers to help storm survivors, and overt criticism of the generals over her continued detention might jeopardize those efforts.

At a donor's meeting over the weekend in Yangon, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he'd not discussed her detention in his talks with the generals. Now, he said, is the time to think about people not politics.

Myanmar's generals, however, are thinking about politics. State-run media announced yesterday that voters in cyclone-affected areas had overwhelmingly approved a new military-backed constitution on Saturday. The military calls the constitution the latest step on its roadmap to democracy.

Critics called the constitution a sham, designed to cement the military's hold on power for several more decades.

Michael Sullivan, NPR News.

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