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No plans to expel Red Cross: Myanmar junta

Myanmar's military junta said that the closure of the humanitarian agency's five field offices near ethnic conflict areas was temporary.

india Updated: Nov 30, 2006 19:33 IST

Myanmar's military junta has no plans to expel the Red Cross and its closure of the humanitarian agency's five field offices near ethnic conflict areas was temporary, its police chief said.

"If they wanted to withdraw from Myanmar, we wouldn't stop them. This is my personal opinion. However, we do not have any plans or intention to ask them to leave our country," Brigadier-General Khin Yi said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a rare news conference in the former Burma's new jungle capital, Nay Pyi Taw, he denied the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had been told to shut its field offices permanently.

"They were asked to suspend their activities temporarily while new rules and regulations governing the functions of foreign organisations are being processed," he said.

"Their activities may be in a position to disrupt peace and stability."

The ICRC, forced to suspend visits to political prisoners a year ago, said on Monday the closure of its field offices made it impossible to carry out humanitarian work for those affected by decades of civil war.

Since its independence from Britain in 1948, Myanmar has been driven by decades of conflict waged by ethnic militias fighting for regional autonomy.

A major offensive against ethnic Karen guerrillas this year in the east of the country -- where the Red Cross had three of its field offices -- has led to thousands of internal refugees, Karen and international human rights groups say.

Even though Western governments regularly condemn Myanmar for its detention of more than 1,100 prisoners of conscience, Khin Yi denied the junta was holding any political detainees.

"There are those members of political parties who were sent to prison for other criminal offences," he said.

Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent more than 11 of the last 17 years either in prison or under house arrest, was in good health, Khin Yi said, denying reports that the junta had been restricting medical access to the 61-year-old.

"According to the results of the recent check-up by ultrasound ... she is in good health," he said.

Suu Kyi's doctor, who conducted a check-up at her lakeside residence on Nov 16, has refused to comment on the results, citing the need for patient confidentiality.

First Published: Nov 30, 2006 19:33 IST