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Myanmar tells Suu Kyi to stay out of politics

It is the first time since being released that Suu Kyi has been warned to stay out of politics.

Myanmar: Myanmar`s regime Wednesday told pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to halt all political activities and warned her that plans for a first national tour since being freed could spark riots and chaos.

Official media said the home affairs ministry had written to the Nobel Peace Prize winner, who spent most of the past two decades locked up at the hands of the junta, stating that her party`s activities had already broken the law.

It is the first time since being released last year that the authorities have explicitly warned Suu Kyi to stay out of politics. Her immediate response indicated she had no intention of cancelling the planned tour indefinitely.

"We cannot stay away from the people when doing politics," she told a meeting of youth members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

Suu Kyi held around one hour of talks Wednesday with a senior Japanese diplomat and she admitted politics had been discussed.

Asked about the tour, she said, "I will go," but added: "We have to wait for the right weather conditions."

No schedule has been announced for the democracy icon`s trip around Myanmar, also known as Burma.

Security is a major concern as Suu Kyi`s convoy was attacked in 2003 in an ambush apparently organised by a regime frightened by her popularity.

A political tour would be a test of both the 66-year-old`s popularity following an election that has left her sidelined from politics, and of her freedom to travel around the country unhindered by official intervention.

The state-run New Light of Myanmar reported that the home affairs ministry had informed Suu Kyi that her party was breaking the law by maintaining party offices, holding meetings and issuing statements.

"If they really want to accept and practise 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," it said.

The democracy icon was freed in November after seven straight years of house arrest, less than a week after an election in Myanmar that critics said was a charade aimed at preserving military rule behind a civilian facade.

Her party won a landslide election victory in 1990 that was never recognised by the junta.

The NLD was disbanded by the military rulers last year because it boycotted the November poll, the first in 20 years, saying the rules were unfair.

The New Light, a mouthpiece for the regime, also warned Suu Kyi against launching a political tour.

"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," a commentary in the newspaper said.

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

Renaud Egreteau, a Myanmar expert at the University of Hong Kong, said the warning illustrated that the regime was worried about the freed democracy leader`s plans.

"The authorities are doubtless uneasy with the idea of Suu Kyi testing her popularity in the country, especially if she goes to NLD strongholds like Mandalay to rally support," he said.

In a BBC lecture broadcast on Tuesday, Suu Kyi said the recent uprisings in the Middle East had given fresh hope to people in her country.

"The universal human aspiration to be free has been brought home to us by the stirring developments in the Middle East," she said.

"Do we envy the people of Tunisia and Egypt? Yes, we do envy them their quick and peaceful transitions. But more than envy is a sense of solidarity and of renewed commitment to our cause, which is the cause of all women and men who value human dignity and freedom," Suu Kyi added.

Pro-democracy protests in 1988 and 2007 were brutally crushed by the military rulers of Myanmar.

Suu Kyi held a meeting Wednesday with Japan`s Parliamentary Vice Foreign Minister Makiko Kikuta where they agreed on the need to build goodwill between the two states.

"We also talked about politics but I do not want to reveal in details," Suu Kyi said afterwards.

In Washington, meanwhile, the nominee to be US pointman on Myanmar, Derek Mitchell, said the White House would seek a positive relationship with Myanmar but hoped the regime would address human rights issues and a lack of democracy.

Bureau Report