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Myanmar warns Suu Kyi tour could spark riots

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 30 Jun 2011 00:52 GMT
Author: Aung Hla Tun
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By Aung Hla Tun

YANGON, June 29 (Reuters) - A possible tour of Myanmar by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi could cause riots, state media warned on Wednesday, implying she would be responsible for her own safety.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi is planning her first trip outside the former capital Yangon since she was freed from home detention last year after elections to end army rule.

The military still effectively controls the government in the Southeast Asian country formerly known as Burma.

"Her followers and supporters are gushing that the icon must keep in touch with the public. They seem willing to exploit the public. They also propagate that the government is responsible for security of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on her trip," a commentary in all three official newspapers said.

"We are deeply concerned that if Daw Aung San Suu Kyi makes trips to countryside regions, there may be chaos and riots, as evidenced by previous incidents," it added.

"Daw"" is an honorific in Myanmar for women.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department said it was concerned about the warning and that it was up to Myanmar's government to ensure that Suu Kyi is free to travel, express her views and fully participate in the political process.

"We remain concerned for her safety and security. And it is the responsibility of the Burmese authorities, in fact, to ensure both her safety and that of Burma's citizens," department spokesman Mark Toner said.

In 2003, in an episode now known as the Depayin Massacre, Suu Kyi's motorcade was attacked by pro-junta thugs and 70 of her supporters died in what was seen as an assassination attempt.

"The government has said that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is just an ordinary public member, so it will not restrict her from traveling and doing things in accordance with the law, but she shall honor the laws for the rule of law," the commentary read.

Suu Kyi, 66, has not announced any dates for the tour, nor an itinerary.

Her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), was officially dissolved last year when it refused to register for elections held in November. Suu Kyi was released from seven years of house arrest a week after the vote.

Official media, a mouthpiece for the government, also said on Wednesday the government had warned the NLD "not to harm peace and stability" and to respect the law.

"If they really want to accept and practice democracy effectively, they are to stop such acts that can harm peace and stability and the rule of law as well as the unity among the people including monks and service personnel," the letter said, according to state media.

NLD spokesman Nyan Win confirmed a letter had been received. "We got that letter yesterday but we still have not talked it over and decided what to do about it," he said.

The newspapers said the letter accused the party of keeping its headquarters and various offices open and organizing meetings even through it had been dissolved.

"Such acts are not only against the law but also tantamount to opposing the Hluttaws (legislature)," they said. (Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; additional reporting by Andrew Quinn in Washington; Editing by Alan Raybould and Daniel Magnowski)

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