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Suu Kyi held in notorious jail

From CNN Bangkok Bureau Chief Tom Mintier

Aung San Suu Kyi's detention has sparked a wave of international protest.
Aung San Suu Kyi's detention has sparked a wave of international protest.

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start quoteThis completely discredits the regime's claim that she is being held in 'protective custody'end quote
-- UK Foreign Office Minister Mike O'Brien
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BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is being held in one of the country's most notorious prisons, CNN has confirmed through the U.S. Embassy in the country.

Sources have told the embassy that the Nobel Prize-winning opposition leader is being held at the Insein prison, known for its deplorable conditions, near the capital Yangon (formerly Rangoon).

She is being held in a specially constructed hut in the prison grounds, rather than in the main cells where former inmates have described poor conditions, mistreatment, and the torture of political prisoners.

Little has been known about Aung San Suu Kyi's whereabouts since she was detained on May 30 after supporters of her party, the National League for Democracy, clashed with a pro-government group in the north of the country.

World leaders have been calling for her release.

On Thursday the British Foreign Office said it had been informed that Aung San Suu Kyi was being held at Insein, apparently still wearing the clothes she wore when she was taken into custody.

Officials said she was being detained under the "most draconian" of the country's military laws.

There has been no confirmation or denial of Aung San Suu Kyi's whereabouts by Myanmar government officials.

The government has allowed representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit other NLD detainees but not Aung San Suu Kyi herself.

The NLD leader was seen by a special UN envoy during his visit to Myanmar earlier this month who described her as being in good health, uninjured and "feisty."

He is the only person from outside Myanmar to have seen her since her detention began.

In an exclusive interview with CNN during the ASEAN Regional Forum in Phnom Penh, Myanmar Foreign Minister Win Aung said the detention was "temporary" but refused to say how long she would be held. (No date for release)

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has said it is not reassured by government statements that Aung San Suu Kyi she will be freed "when the time is right", and has called on the authorities in Yangon to release her "immediately and unconditionally."

"Despite claims that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is being held for her protection, she is being held under provisions that fail to protect her basic human rights and deem her a threat to state sovereignty and security," the organization said.

Aung San Suu Kyi, regarded by many as Southeast Asia's equivalent of Nelson Mandela, has spent much of the last 15 years under house arrest.

Myanmar's ruling junta had her confined to her home from 1989 to 1995 and again from September 2000 until May 2002.

Win Aung also stated her detention was for her own protection because the government feared the May 30 clashes could destabilize the country.

'Draconian law'

Suu Kyi has not been seen or heard from since her arrest on May 30.
Suu Kyi has not been seen or heard from since her arrest on May 30.

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell attempted unsuccessfully to send personal birthday greetings to Aung San Suu Kyi, 58, according to the State Department.

"Our embassy has been unable to deliver them to her this year because, sadly, this is the seventh birthday since 1989 that she has spent under detention by her country's military rulers," spokesman Philip Reeker said.

In London, Foreign Office Minister Mike O'Brien said Thursday he was "particularly disturbed" to learn Aung San Suu Kyi was being held under the 1975 State Protection Law."

"This is the most draconian of the ... military regime's laws, which allows for detention without access to family or lawyers for 180 days at a time up to a total of five years, with no prospect of appeal," he said.

"This completely discredits the regime's claim that she is being held in 'protective custody'," he added.

O'Brien said British officials were trying to contact the Yangon jail by phone to speak to Aung San Suu Kyi in person.

"It is totally unacceptable that she should be detained in this manner, and I call upon Senior General Than Shwe to release her, and all other political prisoners, immediately.

The international community will not stand idly by while the military regime continues to abuse the democratic and human rights of Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma [Myanmar]," O'Brien said

-- CNN State Department Correspondent Andrea Koppel contributed to this report


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