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NEWS UPDATES 18 June 2010

Suu Kyi supporters mark her 65th birthday

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From tree planting in Myanmar to a solidarity rally in Washington and flash mobs in Britain, people around the world are holding events to mark the 65th birthday of Aung San Suu Kyi on Saturday, June 19, according to AFP.

Supporters of Myanmar's iconic democracy leader plan to throw a small party for her at one of their houses in northern Yangon, but Suu Kyi won't be there.

Instead the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, in detention for almost 15 years, is expected to spend a quiet day at her lakeside mansion where she is kept without telephone or Internet access, cut off from the outside world.

Members of her National League for Democracy are planting about 20,000 saplings around Myanmar to mark her birthday.

"It's difficult without Daw Suu in a leading role. But we try our best with our belief because we have seen Daw Suu struggling for the people," Min Zaw Oo, a 29-year-old NLD youth member, told AFP.

"She's our role model. So we will continue to believe in her. We always pray for her release. Not only on her birthday."

Nandar Lin, 22, said women NLD youth members would recall Suu Kyi's past speeches on Saturday "as a birthday present to her".

Suu Kyi's soft voice and demeanour belie her status as the biggest threat to the ruling government ahead of elections planned for sometime this year.

Her party won the last vote in 1990 but was never allowed to take office, and she is barred from standing in the upcoming polls -- the country's first in two decades.

"Aung San Suu Kyi is a global symbol of moral courage in the face of repression," said former US president Jimmy Carter, who attended a recent gathering in South Africa of eminent former leaders to mark her birthday.

Critics say the elections are a sham aimed at simply entrenching the generals' power, and a UN working group this week pronounced her detention a breach of international human rights law, prompting new calls for her release.

Suu Kyi's NLD is no longer recognised by the government as an official party after refusing to meet a May 6 deadline to re-register -- a move that would have forced it to expel its leader and other members in detention.

Suu Kyi had her incarceration lengthened by 18 months in August last year after being convicted over a bizarre incident in which a US man swam to her lakeside home, and there are fears her detention may be extended again.

"I think that they can constantly find reasons to extend it," said Mathieson of Human Rights Watch. "They'll only ever release her when they have the confidence that they can contain her."


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