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Suu Kyi's support in Myanmar waning: Police chief

Major-General Khin Yi gave no hint as to when the Nobel laureate and head of the Oppn National League for Democracy might be freed.

india Updated: May 23, 2006 12:51 IST

Aung San Suu Kyi's release from detention, if ever, would have little impact in Myanmar because support for her opposition party has fallen, the military-ruled country's police chief said on Tuesday.

"I think there will be no rallies or riots in Myanmar if Suu Kyi is released," Police Major-General Khin Yi told reporters at a southeast Asian police chiefs' meeting in Kuala Lumpur.

He gave no hint as to when or if the Nobel laureate and head of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) might be freed.

"Our police force can handle everything. There is peace and tranquility in Myanmar," he said. "I don't think there are a lot of supporters for her. Some members of the NLD have resigned."

His comments came three days after Suu Kyi, who has been in prison or under house arrest since May 2003, met senior UN official Ibrahim Gambari in Yangon, her first contact with an outsider in more than two years.

Khin Yi said Gambari's hour-long meeting with the 60-year-old democracy icon suggested, "things will be improved" but did not elaborate. "I'm a police officer, not a politician," he said.

There is little to indicate the junta is about to make up with Suu Kyi or her party, which won a 1990 election by a landslide only to be denied power by the army.

Last month, the junta accused the NLD of ties to "terrorists and destructive groups" and said there were grounds to ban it.

US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said it was vital the international community kept pressure on Yangon to implement political reform and begin talks with the NLD.

"They have got to reach out and have a real dialogue with the opposition and start getting going. It's gone on for many years," he told reporters in Bangkok.

The United States was looking at "a number of options for how we can take this further", he added, without giving details.

Washington asked on Monday that Gambari brief the UN Security Council on his trip, part of its push to get Myanmar on the Council's formal agenda to squeeze the generals into embracing reforms and freeing Suu Kyi and more than 1,000 other political prisoners.

China, Russia and Japan have said the Council would be exceeding its mandate by involving itself in a human rights issue, which did not pose a threat to international peace and security.

Hill, in Bangkok to meet counterparts in the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), one of the few international groups willing to admit Myanmar as a member, urged them to continue pressing for change.

"We hope in particular that ASEAN's commitment and work towards democracy can help resolve our shared concerns about the problems in Burma," he told the diplomats.

The junta proposed a seven-step plan in 2003 to end 44 years of army rule, but says it is only half way through step one -- drafting a new constitution. The foot-dragging has irked ASEAN, which forced Myanmar to forego its group chairmanship this year.

First Published: May 23, 2006 12:51 IST