RANGOON, Burma - Burma's military regime extended the house arrest of democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday, refusing to bow to international pressure of the sort that persuaded the generals to let in foreign help for cyclone victims.
Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate who has been detained for more than 12 of the past 18 years, had her detention extended one year, said a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Her detention has long been the symbol of the regime's heavy-handed intolerance of democratic opposition to its rule, and there is a worldwide campaign lobbying for her release.
President Bush said he was "deeply troubled" by the extension but emphasized that the United States would continue to provide aid for Burma's cyclone survivors.
British Foreign Secretary David Milliband said he was "was saddened, if not surprised," by the decision to keep her detained.
"While our immediate focus is on relieving the suffering caused by the recent cyclone, restoration of democracy in Burma is still vital for that country's long-term future," Milliband said.
The extension of Suu Kyi's detention came as Burma, renamed Myanmar by the junta, was still fending off worldwide criticism for its inadequate aid effort after Cyclone Nargis.
The storm left an estimated 2.4 million people in desperate need of food, shelter, and medical care, according to the United Nations. The government says the deluge killed 78,000 people and left 56,000 missing.
"International aid workers are starting to move to the delta," Richard Horsey, a spokesman for the UN humanitarian effort, said yesterday. Helicopters also began shuttling high-energy biscuits and ready-to-eat meals into the hardest hit area yesterday, he said in Bangkok.
Burma's leaders are leery of foreign aid workers and international agencies because they fear that an influx of outsiders could undermine their control. The junta is also hesitant to have its people see aid coming directly from countries such as the United States, which it has long treated as a hostile power seeking to invade or colonize.
But the Suu Kyi, daughter of the country's martyred independence leader, General Aung San, has long been regarded by the generals as the biggest threat to their power.
Her National League for Democracy party is the country's largest legal opposition group, and it retains the loyalty of millions of citizens despite two decades of repression.
The party won the most seats in 1990 elections, but the military refused to convene parliament. Instead, it harassed and arrested members of the party, setting a pattern that still stands.
Yesterday was the anniversary of the abortive election victory, and about 200 members attended a ceremony at party headquarters.
In front of the dilapidated building, about 30 supporters held a banner calling for Suu Kyi's release and chanted: "Aung San Suu Kyi. Release her immediately."
They also observed a minute of silence for those killed by Cyclone Nargis and for "democracy heroes," while plainclothes police videorecorded and photographed the participants.
Police later hauled away about 20 party members who were protesting Suu Kyi's detention. Witnesses saw riot police shove the protesters into a truck as they were marching toward Suu Kyi's home.
The intersection on the street to Suu Kyi's house, always barricaded, was more closely guarded than usual yesterday.
In the first week after the cyclone, Suu Kyi lived in virtual darkness after the storm blew part of the roof off her house, according to one of her neighbors.
She has appeared in public only once in the past five years - she was allowed to stand at the open gate of her compound during last September's pro-democracy protests in Rangoon. Only a few hundred demonstrators who were allowed to march down her street got a glimpse of her.