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Suu Kyi placed in custody

Yangon, May 31 (Reuters): Myanmar’s ruling military said today it took Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and 17 of her top party members into “protective custody” after violent clashes between her supporters and opponents in the north of the country.

Myanmar junta spokesman Tin Win said Suu Kyi was taken into custody late yesterday after hundreds of her supporters clashed with opponents, leaving four people dead and as many as 50 injured.

Myanmar officials did not say what sparked the violence in the northern town of Yaway Oo, about 560 km north of the capital, and denied media reports that her vehicle had been fired on by an unidentified gunman yesterday night.

“There was no shooting at all, and nobody accompanying Aung San Suu Kyi was injured,” Brig Gen. Than Tun said. The announcement that Suu Kyi was in custody came just hours after security officials sealed her NLD party headquarters in the capital, amid mounting criticism of the pro-democracy icon by the country’s ruling military.

“It is too early to talk about the future of the NLD party,” Brig. Gen. Tun said.

He declined to say how long the 1991 Nobel peace laureate would be held. Suu Kyi was released from house arrest only a year ago after intense international pressure.

Telephone lines to the homes of senior members of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party in Yangon were not working this afternoon.

Suu Kyi, whose NLD won 1990 elections in Myanmar by a landslide but was denied power by the military, was on a month-long tour of northern Myanmar and had been due to return to the capital on June 4.

The junta has been annoyed at Suu Kyi’s trips outside the capital, where she has drawn large and adoring crowds, a sign the daughter of Myanmar independence leader Aung San remains popular despite spending the better part of a decade under house arrest.

Sources close to the junta said Suu Kyi would be returned to the capital tomorrow.

Earlier today, witnesses saw security officials put a large padlock on the door of the NLD headquarters in Yangon and remove a party flag. The keyhole on the lock was sealed and several plainclothes officers were posted outside. The closure of the NLD’s headquarters comes days before the scheduled arrival of a top UN envoy, Malaysian Razali Ismail, due to visit on June 6-10 in a bid to revive stalled talks between the junta and Opposition.

Those talks now appear problematic, despite Than Tun saying “confidence-building” between the government and Opposition would remain unaffected. The talks have been stalled in the confidence-building phase since they began in late 2000, after Suu Kyi was put under house arrest. The government has never responded to Suu Kyi’s calls for substantive dialogue on change.

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