Indonesia joins in criticism of Myanmar over Suu Kyi

MANILA (Reuters) - Indonesia’s foreign minister chided Myanmar on Wednesday for extending the detention of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, the first criticism of the junta’s move by a fellow Southeast Asian nation.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda is seen speaking during a UN Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York in this April 16, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Chip East/Files

Hassan Wirajuda told reporters in Manila that the action by Myanmar’s generals was even more regrettable since it came while the world was busy helping Myanmar recover from a killer cyclone.

“The decision to extend the detention of Madame Aung San Suu Kyi is very much against the spirit of cooperation, of help from the international other words, this is also against the goodwill of the international community,” he said.

“We regret it because at least on the part of Indonesia and ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations), since we collectively, since 2003, have demanded the Myanmar government release Madame Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.”

About 100,000 people were killed and billions of dollars were lost when Cyclone Nargis struck at Myanmar’s rice-producing region early this month, leaving 2 million homeless and struggling to survive from hunger and disease.

Several Western governments have criticised the 10-member ASEAN, of which both Indonesia and Myanmar are members, for failing to bring pressure to bear on the regime, both over Suu Kyi’s detention and more recently for dragging its feet on accepting foreign help in dealing with the cyclone’s devastation.

Officials drove to Suu Kyi’s lakeside Yangon home on Tuesday to read out an extension order in person, but it was unclear whether the extension was for six months or a year.

The opposition leader has been under house arrest or in prison for nearly 13 of the last 18 years.

Wirajuda was in the Philippines to receive an award for his role in helping the Manila government forge a peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1996 to end separatist rebellion in the south of the mainly Catholic state.

“Of course, the case of Madame Aung San Suu Kyi is a different thing than the problems currently faced by the Myanmar government in coping with Nargis,” Wirajuda said.

“But, still, while we are all trying to help Myanmar, ASEAN and the international community, this is very much against that spirit.”

ASEAN groups Brunei, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.