Suu Kyi detention deadline about to expire, junta silent

Bangkok, May 25:

The deadline for pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest expires this week, but Myanmar’s military rulers remained silent about her fate today as international donors pushed politics aside to help suffering cyclone victims.

The detention of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi has been at the centre of friction between the secretive junta and many countries, which have tirelessly campaigned for her release. She was last put under house arrest in May 2003, and the term has been renewed every year since.

But this year’s deadline comes at a critical point. Under Myanmar law, no one can be held longer than five years without being freed or put on trial, said US lawyer Jared Genser, hired by Suu Kyi’s family.

It remained unclear what action, if any, the regime would take as the world focuses on the country still reeling from Cyclone Nargis. The storm killed 78,000 people and left another 2.4 million people homeless.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and representatives from 50 nations met today for a one-day fundraising conference in Yangon. The donors have agreed, at least for now, to focus on the humanitarian relief effort.“We must think about people, just now, not politics,” Ban said.

The junta has made it impossible for foreign aid agencies to get access to the Irrawaddy delta — where the cyclone hit hard— but the country’s general promised Ban on Friday that those restrictions would be lifted.