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Yangon shuts down varsities

Yangon, June 2 (Reuters): Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was in custody in Yangon today as the ruling military stopped thousands of university students from attending classes as part of broad crackdown on dissent.

The closure of all universities and colleges, traditionally a hotbed of unrest, was announced late yesterday and many students had not heard the news. Education and security officials turned students away at the gates of institutions on the outskirts of the capital where they were moved in the late 1990s after earlier demonstrations.

“They asked us to go back home and said we would be informed when classes will start,” said a young woman outside Yangon University East where dozens of students were milling about.

Most of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) offices around the country were closed after the Nobel peace laureate and other opposition leaders touring the north of the country were detained on Friday.

Suu Kyi’s whereabouts were not known but a junta official said she was in a government guest house in Yangon. Other NLD leaders have been confined at home with their telephone lines cut. Western diplomats trying to visit have been turned away by security officials.

The UN, Japan, Australia, the EU and neighbouring Thailand, where hundreds of Myanmar students live in exile, expressed grave concern.

“We strongly hope that the government of Myanmar will take a moderate response and that the situation will quickly be restored to normal,” a Japanese foreign ministry official said.

Japan, once a major aid donor, has shown more willingness to engage the generals than Western countries. The US and EU maintain aid and trade sanctions. EU external relations commissioner Chris Patten urged the junta to release Suu Kyi and resume dialogue.

“The EU has recently renewed its sanctions against Burma/Myanmar, and has made clear that these may be strengthened later this year,” he said.

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