Burma's Suu Kyi 'refuses release with conditions'

Image caption,
Aung San Suu Kyi has been in detention in Burma for 15 of the past 21 years

Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi will not accept conditions on her freedom if the ruling generals release her on Saturday when her house arrest term expires, her lawyer says.

"[Ms Suu Kyi] will not accept a limited release," Nyan Win said.

The junta has not said if the 65-year-old - who has spent much of the past 21 years in detention - will be released.

It comes as the main military-backed political party says it has won the country's first election in 20 years.

A Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) official said on Tuesday the party had won 80% of the vote. Official results have yet to be released.

Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party boycotted the poll, and was effectively dissolved for refusing to take part.

Ms Suu Kyi has called on her supporters to expose electoral fraud, Nyan Win told Reuters.

Speaking of her possible release he said: "[It] must be unconditional... As we all know, she never accepted limited freedom in the past."

The election is the first since 1990, when the NLD secured an overwhelming victory but was never allowed to take power.

The junta says the election marks the transition from military rule to a civilian democracy.

However, many Western governments and human rights groups have said the election was neither free nor fair.

But analysts say that - although deeply flawed - the election could mark the start of a process of democratisation, by giving opposition lawmakers a voice, however limited, in the institutional decision-making process.

Acrimonious split

Under election rules drafted by the generals, political prisoners were barred from registering.

The NLD was faced with expelling Ms Suu Kyi and more than 400 members in prison.

Ms Suu Kyi said taking part on such terms was unthinkable.

Should party members participate in the election, "the party would have no dignity", she was quoted as saying by Mr Win, who is also an NLD spokesman, in the run-up to the election.

The NLD has split internally, with some members deciding to compete as the National Democratic Force (NDF), arguing it made more sense to be involved in the process, however flawed.

The division has become acrimonious, with some activists accusing the NDF of betraying the long struggle for a true democracy.

Analysts say that if Gen Than Shwe decides to release Ms Suu Kyi, it will be to try to further divide the opposition.

If the NDF does well at the polls, Gen Shwe may release her on the assumption that she will attack them and dissipate their momentum.

Ms Suu Kyi's detention was extended by 18 months in August last year over a strange incident in which a US man swam uninvited to her lakeside home in Rangoon.

Her detention expires on 13 November, but some fear Burma's military regime may find a reason to extend it.

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