Burma extends detention of opposition leader

Feb 13, 2009 (AP)‚ Burma’s military government on Friday extended the house arrest of the deputy leader of Aung San Suu Kyi’s pro-democracy party, despite recent calls from the United Nations for the release of political prisoners.

Several policemen were seen visiting Tin Oo’s house to inform him that the restrictions had been extended, according to a neighbor who asked not to be named for fear of government reprisal.

The extension was for one year, said a government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to release such information. Burma’s junta tightly controls the release of all news.

Tin Oo, 82, the vice chairman of the National League for Democracy, was arrested with Aung San Suu Kyi in May 2003, when a pro-government mob attacked their motorcade as they were making a political tour of northern Burma. Both party leaders have been in either prison or under house arrest since then.

The extension came less than two weeks after an official visit by the UN’s visiting envoy earlier this month in an effort to promote political reform in the military-ruled country.

Special envoy Ibrahim Gambari, who met with prime minister general Thein Sein, reportedly asked Burma’s junta to release more political prisoners, to consider a dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and to make the military-guided political process inclusive for all. But since the visit, there have been no signs of progress on promoting democracy and political reconciliation.

Tin Oo’s detention had been extended several times since 2005. He is not allowed to receive visitors but has been allowed a medical checkup.

The junta took power in 1988 after violently suppressing mass pro-democracy protests. It held a general election in 1990, but refused to recognize the results after a landslide victory by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party.

The extension had been expected, since the military government has shown no signs of wishing to talk with Aung San Suu Kyi’s party to resolve the country’s political deadlock. Tin Oo was one of the party’s founders in 1988.

Human rights groups say Burma now holds more than 2100 political prisoners, up sharply from nearly 1200 before mass pro-democracy demonstrations in 2007.

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