Burma Opposition Leader Remains Detained, But Cyclone Aid Continues

The party of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi denounced the extension of her house arrest and said Wednesday it would launch an appeal, while foreign donors said aid for cyclone victims in military-ruled Burma, also known as Myanmar, will continue.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate who has been detained for more than 12 of the past 18 years, had her detention extended by one year Tuesday, a government official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Her National League for Democracy party called the extension "illegal." Party spokesman Nyan Win said the regime should open a public hearing on the case.

In Washington, President Bush said Tuesday he was "deeply troubled" by the extension of Suu Kyi's house arrest but stressed the U.S. would continue to provide aid to the cyclone victims.

Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest continuously since May 2003, has long been the symbol of the regime's heavy-handed intolerance of opposition and the focus of a worldwide campaign lobbying for her release.

Burma's heavily censored newspapers made no mention of Suu Kyi's detention being extended and the government did not explain under what laws she could be held for another year. A 1975 law says that people deemed security threats can be detained for a maximum of five years without trial.

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Outside Suu Kyi's home, security returned to normal Wednesday. An extra row of barricades that was erected Tuesday was removed, leaving the usual single fortified barricade blocking the roads that lead to her lakeside home.

The extension of Suu Kyi's detention came as Burma fended off worldwide criticism of its inadequate aid effort for the survivors of the May 2-3 Cyclone Nargis.

The government says the cyclone killed 78,000 people and left 56,000 missing. An estimated 2.4 million people were left in desperate need of food, shelter and medical care, according to the U.N.

Only after intense international pressure and a personal appeal by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon did the government relent and say it would allow foreign relief workers to travel to the Irrawaddy delta, the area hardest hit by the cyclone.

The U.N. says some of their foreign staffers have begun moving into the delta and emergency food supplies are being ferried in on its helicopters.

"Some international aid workers and NGOs have already gone into the regions of the Irrawaddy delta, without any problem," Ban, who visited Burma last week to meet with junta chief Senior Gen. Than Shwe, told reporters in New York on Tuesday.

"I hope — and I believe — that this marks a new spirit of cooperation between Burma and the international community as a whole," he said.

The French warship Mistral landed Wednesday on the resort island of Phuket, Thailand, to unload some 1,000 tons of humanitarian supplies for shipment by the United Nations to Burma.

The regime has forbidden direct aid by warships of France, the United States and Great Britain, which have been standing by off the Burma coast to deliver the assistance. Burma's state media has voiced fears of a U.S. invasion to grab the country's oil reserves.

Burma's leaders are leery of foreign aid workers because they fear an influx of outsiders could undermine their control. The junta is also hesitant to have its people see aid coming directly from countries such as the United States, which it has long treated as a hostile power seeking to invade.

But the ruling generals have long regarded Suu Kyi, daughter of the country's martyred independence leader Gen. Aung San, as the biggest threat to their power.

Her National League for Democracy party is the country's largest legal opposition group, and it retains the loyalty of millions of citizens despite two decades of constant repression.

U.N. efforts to spur dialogue in the wake of pro-democracy rallies violently suppressed by the military in September have failed to make progress.