US official raps Myanmar on human rights - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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US official raps Myanmar on human rights

US official raps Myanmar on human rights By FOSTER KLUG, Associated Press Writer
Thu Jun 28, 3:22 PM ET

A top U.S. official pressed senior representatives of Myanmar's military regime to free imprisoned Nobel laureate and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a rare meeting, the State Department said Thursday.

Eric John, a deputy assistant secretary of state, met Tuesday in Beijing with Myanmar's ministers of foreign affairs, culture and information to urge the release of Suu Kyi, who has spent more than 11 of the past 18 years in detention.

The last such meeting was in 2003, the State Department said. The U.S. has an embassy in Myanmar, but top U.S. officials refuse to travel to the country for meetings unless the regime allows access to Suu Kyi.

Department spokesman Tom Casey called the meeting "a very frank discussion of our concerns about the regime, about its behavior."

"It gave us an opportunity to express our opinions directly to the regime," he told reporters.

Myanmar's opposition said Thursday that the regime has released about 50 of the 52 activists detained in May. This came after the opposition marched in processions to pray for the release of Suu Kyi.

When asked about Myanmar's reaction to Tuesday's meeting, Casey said, "I don't think we saw anything coming out of them that would indicate, unfortunately, that they had changed their basic opinions."

Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest, has been held continuously since May 30, 2003, when a pro-junta mob attacked her motorcade during a political tour of northern Myanmar, also called Burma.

She is allowed virtually no contact with the outside world except for the occasional visit by her personal physician. Last year, U.N. Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari was permitted an hour-long meeting with her at a government guesthouse.

The military took power in 1988 after crushing vast pro-democracy demonstrations in Myanmar. When Suu Kyi's party won a general election by a landslide in 1990, junta leaders refused to hand over power, insisting the country first needed a new constitution.

The government considers Suu Kyi to be a threat to public order.
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