YANGON: Myanmar's junta was under intense pressure yesterday to release democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi after a renewed appeal from the United Nations and protests from the United States which called her detention “shameful.”
UN envoy Tan Sri Razali Ismail, who met with the National League for Democracy (NLD) leader on Tuesday in the closing hours of his mission to Myanmar, pronounced her “well and in good spirits” and said he expected her to be freed in two weeks.
“I'm hoping and praying she will come out earlier than that,” the Malaysian diplomat told reporters in Kuala Lumpur. “They gave assurances that she will be released but did not give any details,” he said.
Razali said he had asked the junta, which took her into protective custody on May 30 in the wake of violent clashes, to release her immediately “but they say it will take time and they have to look at other circumstances.”
“They can't keep her too long,” he added. “It creates a negative impact on them.”
The military government has said the detention measures were temporary and that they would be lifted “as soon as the situation returns to normal.”
Some observers in Myanmar said that with university classes which were cancelled at the height of the crisis resuming on June 16, rumours were rife that Suu Kyi's release was imminent. But others were doubtful.
“The government is sticking to its script of saying they'll release her as soon as it's safe to,” said one diplomat. “But we're not rejoicing yet.”
“If it was before this weekend that would surprise us all.”
Suu Kyi, the daughter of the nation's independence hero Aung San, has been held incommunicado at a military camp outside the capital since the violence in northern Myanmar which pitted her supporters against a pro-junta gang.
Amid growing fears Suu Kyi had been injured in the violence, there was relief that Razali was able to see her and check on her health, but the junta's last-minute move did not alleviate the pressure for her release.
The United States, which has led an international outpouring of anger over her detention, stepped up its rhetorical war overnight, calling the situation “unacceptable.”
As President George W. Bush and visiting Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra demanded Suu Kyi's immediate release, the State Department said her detention had “turned back” the clock of Myanmar's progress towards democracy.
The military government is likely to face even more pressure next week at a meeting of Asean foreign ministers which US Secretary of State Colin Powell is attending.
UN chief Kofi Annan also called for the ruling generals to release Suu Kyi. – AFP