YANGON, Myanmar - The world broke a self-imposed silence on the political situation in Myanmar yesterday, expressing anger at the military junta's decision to extend the detention of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi days after foreign donors pledged millions to help cyclone victims.
Several countries, including the United States, Britain and France, issued biting statements about the regime's order to keep the Nobel Peace laureate under house arrest for a sixth year.
"This measure testifies to the junta's absence of will to cooperate with the international community," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in a statement.
He called on Myanmar's government to "free without delay" Suu Kyi and other political prisoners and opposition members. Suu Kyi has been held for more than 12 of the last 18 years, becoming a symbol of the junta's intolerance of dissent.
Many nations critical of Myanmar's abuses put politics aside and tried to help survivors of Cyclone Nargis, which ravaged the Irrawaddy Delta nearly a month ago, killing more than 78,000 and leaving 1.5 million homeless. Representatives from 50 nations pledged up to $150 million Sunday, while remaining quiet about Suu Kyi's plight.
Some of those countries expressed frustration yesterday, a day after the junta extended Suu Kyi's detention amid nations' outpouring of goodwill.
"Given the terrible human tragedy that has unfolded in Burma, the Australian government has recently tempered its remarks so far as the Burmese military regime has been concerned," said Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, using another name for Myanmar. "But this particular matter cannot go without comment."
Smith expressed "regret" over Suu Kyi's extended detention.
In Washington, President Bush said Tuesday he was "deeply troubled" by the detention order but stressed the United States would continue to provide cyclone aid.
The regime's move against Suu Kyi came a week after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a personal appeal to Myanmar's top general, attempting to free up a logjam of aid that has been restricted from entering Myanmar's hard-hit delta.
While Ban expressed regret over Suu Kyi's continued arrest, he praised "a new spirit of cooperation" between the junta and the international community in the aid effort. The United Nations said that some of its foreign staffers had begun moving into the delta and that emergency food supplies were being ferried in on its helicopters.
World Vision said it received permission to send two teams, including five international staffers, into the Irrawaddy Delta today. Japan planned to send a medical team to the delta today, Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said.
The French warship Mistral arrived in Thailand yesterday to unload 1,000 tons of humanitarian supplies that will be transported into Myanmar by the United Nations. The junta refuses to allow U.S., French and British warships to deliver emergency supplies.