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U.N. Envoy Briefly Sees Detained Myanmar Activist

June 10, 2003|Richard C. Paddock | Times Staff Writer

CHIANG MAI, Thailand -- Bowing to international pressure, Myanmar's military rulers let democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi meet with a United Nations representative today for the first time since she was attacked and detained May 30.

Suu Kyi, who witnesses said was injured during the ambush of her motorcade, met for an hour at military headquarters with United Nations special envoy Razali Ismail, who had been attempting to see her for the past five days.

Supporters had been hopeful that the meeting would allow the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner to tell her version of the attack by what the U.S. has described as "government-sponsored thugs."

"She is well and in good spirits. She gave her version of the incident," Razali said after the meeting. He did not elaborate.

He said there were "no scratches on her face ... no broken arm."

According to accounts of the incident leaked to exiled democracy activists, as many as 80 of Suu Kyi's supporters were killed, many trying to protect her with their bodies. Suu Kyi, 57, was said to have suffered head and shoulder injuries from either glass or being beaten.

The government has said that four people were killed during the melee, which they blamed on Suu Kyi and her increasingly outspoken opposition to the government.

Democracy activists outside the country said Suu Kyi began a hunger strike in recent days to protest her detention and the imprisonment of 18 other leaders of her National League for Democracy.

The report could not be independently verified.

Suu Kyi's party won national elections in 1990 by a landslide but was never allowed to take power. Popularly known as "The Lady," she has been under house arrest for more than seven of the past 14 years. She was last released a year ago.

Razali has visited Myanmar frequently during the past three years in an attempt to negotiate a reconciliation between the military and the democracy movement. He helped secure her last release.

Soe Aung, a spokesman in Thailand for the National Council of the Union of Burma, welcomed the news of the meeting and expressed hope that it would defuse a mounting crisis within Myanmar, formerly called Burma, that could lead to further violence.

"I am hoping that the UN envoy will try his best after meeting Aung San Suu Kyi to continue his effort on national reconciliation," he said before the meeting. "In the meantime, he also has a responsibility to let the world know what happened."

Times wire services contributed to this report.

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