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Nation

ASEAN urges Myanmar not to renew Suu Kyi detention

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MANILA (AP) - Southeast Asian nations appealed to Myanmar on Tuesday not to renew pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's detention _ a demand that has sparked discord in their regional bloc.

Suu Kyi has been held continuously by Myanmar's ruling junta since 2003. A detention order expires on Sunday, but Myanmar's junta is expected to renew it.

The Nobel Peace laureate has given a face to the junta's years-long political repression that has been condemned by Western nations, along with Myanmar's fellow members in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"It's a consensus that we want to see her early release," Philippine Foreign Undersecretary Erlinda Basilio said. "We'd like to see the lifting of the order."

Basilio led a meeting of senior ASEAN diplomats to prepare the agenda for an annual meeting of the 10-country bloc's foreign ministers in Manila in July. The Philippines also will host a meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum, Asia's largest security forum, in August.

Myanmar's delegate, Aung Bwa, said he was unaware if his government would extend Suu Kyi's detention. "Let's wait and see," he said.

Imron Cotan, who led Indonesia's delegation, expressed impatience at Myanmar's slow pace of democratization. "We have made these calls repeatedly, and Myanmar has found it difficult to respond," he said.

Calls for Myanmar to rapidly fulfill a pledge to democratize has become a familiar refrain in ASEAN's annual meetings, and its spotty human rights record is again expected to be a key issue in the Manila gatherings.

Although bound by an ASEAN edict not to interfere in each other's affairs, some members, like Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia, have become more blunt in their criticism, urging Myanmar to show tangible progress in its promise to democratize.

Authoritarian members, like Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, have adopted a friendlier attitude and have refused to engage in stinging criticism of Myanmar.

Asked if Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is visiting Myanmar, would take up Suu Kyi's detention with the junta, Cambodian diplomat Kao Kim Hourn did not answer clearly.

"In such a high-level meeting, anything is possible," he said.

Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962, and the currently ruling generals took power in 1988. They called elections in 1990, but refused to recognize the results when Suu Kyi's party won a resounding victory.

Myanmar should have been the ASEAN chairman and host of the regional summit this year, but it gave up the chance amid protests by Western governments. The prestigious chairmanship, rotated alphabetically among all members, was abruptly passed on to the Philippines.

ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS AUNG BWA AUNG SAN SUU KYI CAMBODIAN PRIME MINISTER HUN SEN IMRON COTAN KAO KIM HOURN MYANMAR NOBEL PEACE PHILIPPINE FOREIGN UNDERSECRETARY ERLINDA BASILIO SUU KYI
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