YANGON, Myanmar – Myanmar’s ruling military junta detained 12 opposition party members who called for the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi as she marked her 63rd birthday Thursday, witnesses said.
The 12 people were taken into a truck after dozens of Suu Kyi’s supporters gathered outside National League for Democracy party’s headquarters in Yangon, witnesses said on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals.
Some of those detained were punched and beaten before being taken away, they said.
The protesters shouted slogans calling for the government to immediately release Suu Kyi “who has been unfairly detained.”
Last month, the junta extended the house arrest of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate for a sixth year, despite international protests.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday renewed calls for Suu Kyi’s release, calling it essential.
In Myanmar, supporters of Suu Kyi who gathered to mark her birthday quickly dispersed – some running back into party headquarters – after more than a hundred pro-junta thugs approached in six trucks.
Security was tight around both the party headquarters and near her home, with extra barricades at both locations and some 40 plainclothes security officials stationed around the headquarters.
When a group of Buddhist nuns stood outside the headquarters to pray, some security officials videotaped them.
Earlier in the day, the party celebrated Suu Kyi’s birthday by offering meals to Buddhist monks at the headquarters, several miles from her home.
Suu Kyi offered yellow roses at Yangon’s famous Shwedagon pagoda through a member of her political party.
A neighbor said Suu Kyi spent a quiet birthday inside her lakeside compound.
“Her compound is quiet. So far no visitors have come to bless her, no monks have come to accept alms,” said the neighbor, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals.
Suu Kyi has spent more than 12 of the last 18 years under detention. Her party swept national elections in 1990 but the ruling junta refused to honor the results.