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Tension rose in Rangoon over the weekend following the extension of renowned democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi's detention for a fifth successive year, report ARTICLE 19, Mizzima News and local press reports.

More than 300 protesters, led by former student leaders of a 1988 pro-democracy uprising crushed by the regime, had planned to pray for Suu Kyi's release from house arrest at Shwedagon pagoda, Burma's most famous religious site, on Sunday. But they were met with mobs of government supporters and police who barricaded the road and blocked their path, say the Southeast Asian-based magazine "The Irrawaddy" and other press reports. Eleven pro-democracy activists were arrested, says "The Irrawaddy", while 30 were physically attacked, reports Mizzima News.

The standoff ended when marchers moved their rally to the front of the party headquarters of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD). They released 1,000 balloons to mark the anniversary of Suu Kyi's sweeping 1990 election victory, which has never been recognised by the junta.

The next day, Burmese activists led a solidarity march in New Delhi, India, demanding that the international community ensure the safety of the people who adopt non-violent ways to restore democracy in the country, reports Mizzima News.

About 50 activists have been arrested so far this month, in a "Free Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners" campaign that began on 1 May, says "The Irrawaddy".

Suu Kyi has been in detention for more than 11 of the past 17 years. ARTICLE 19 and local press report that UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Burma has called her confinement "cruel and unacceptable," and joined 13 other Special Rapporteurs in demanding her release. Earlier this month, in a letter to General Than Shwe, head of the military junta, 58 former world leaders and Nobel Prize laureates called for Suu Kyi?s unconditional and immediate release. The US and EU have recently renewed its sanctions against the regime for another year. China, however, says Suu Kyi's detention is an "internal affair" of the country, reports "The Irrawaddy".

According to ARTICLE 19, the free expression situation in Burma has deteriorated over the past year, with rigorous censorship and limited access to the Internet, an imposed blackout on the Rangoon bombings and persistent attacks on the NLD.

Visit these links:
- Mizzima News:
- Mizzima News on Indian solidarity demo:
- "The Irrawaddy":
- Aung San Suu Kyi News:
(Photo courtesy of Mizzima News)

(29 May 2007)

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