ASEAN to pressure Rangoon over Aung San Suu Kyi

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The United Nations will send its special envoy, Razali Ismail, to Burma at the end of the month, in an attempt to kick-start the U.N.-brokered reconciliation in the country, and to meet the detained opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, RFA reports.

Razali will head for Burma on Sept. 30 following consultations with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York, a U.S. spokesperson said. The news comes as National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi recovers from major surgery.

Nobel laureate Suu Kyi was arrested after a government-led ambush on her motorcade on May 30 in the north of the country, in which as many as 100 people died, and an unknown number of women were raped, according to eyewitness testimonies recorded for RFA's Burmese service. She has been held in an unknown location "for her own protection", according to the country's military rulers.

Annan expects Razali to meet Suu Kyi, "find out her condition and work with government officials towards her immediate and unconditional release," the U.N. spokesman said. The NLD leader underwent three-hour surgery last week for a gynecological problem.

The secretary-general also expects Razali "to discuss with Prime Minister Gen. Khin Nyunt and other government leaders ways in which to revive the national reconciliation process, which came to a standstill after the incident of May 30," he said. Razali brokered the reconciliation talks and later secured Suu Kyi's release from more than 18 months of house arrest in May 2002.

Earlier this month, Razali said he hoped to return to Burma and speak to the new premier about his recently announced road map to an elected government in Burma. Khin Nyunt, who was named prime minister last month in a major Cabinet reshuffle, announced his "road map" on Aug. 30, but made no offers to hold talks with the NLD or other political opponents.

The NLD won a national election more than a decade ago in Burma, but the military junta refused to yield power. Since 1990, Suu Kyi has been kept under various periods of house arrest. Her latest detention halted reconciliation talks she had begun with the junta in October 2000.

Meanwhile, Indonesia's former foreign minister Ali Alatas is visiting the country to put further pressure on Rangoon for her release. "I am here as the special envoy of the Indonesian president (Megawati Sukarnoputri)," he told reporters on arrival.

A spokesperson from the U.N. Secretary General's office told RFA's Burmese service that any effort on the part of the region to work toward the release of Suu Kyi is welcomed.

Indonesia is the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which has called for Aung San Suu Kyi's release ahead of an Oct. 7 summit. ASEAN -- which has traditionally refrained from commenting on the domestic political affairs of its members -- was strongly criticized by the international community for admitting Burma in 1997.

Asean groups Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.


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