YANGON, Myanmar (AP) – The ruling military junta extended the house arrest of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi today and beefed up security around her residence, a government official said.

Suu Kyi, who has spent about 10 of the last 17 years in home detention, was most recently taken into custody on May 30, 2003, after her motorcade was attacked by a pro-junta mob as she was making a political tour of northern Myanmar.

That detention order expired early today, and her supporters were hopeful the military government would grant her freedom.

But the government official said this morning that her detention order had been extended, though it wasn’t immediately clear for how long. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the case with the media.

“This is a big disappointment and a major setback to national reconciliation,” said Nyan Win, a spokesman for Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy. “The extension is exactly opposite of what we expected.”

More than 20 riot police armed with batons were deployed near Suu Kyi’s lakeside residence on Yangon’s University Avenue, and police officers moved back roadblocks by about 300 feet to extend the cordon around her home.

After her arrest in May 2003, Suu Kyi was held by the military and later transferred to house arrest on Sept. 26, 2003, after undergoing an operation at a hospital in Yangon.

While the military junta did not indicated publicly whether her detention would be extended, a visit last week by U.N. Undersecretary-General Ibrahim Gambari – who became the first foreigner to see Suu Kyi in more than two years – fueled optimism.

In Malaysia, Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said Myanmar’s military junta shouldn’t fear Suu Kyi’s release.

“The government is very strong and very stable,” he told reporters. “They are able to maintain security. Why should they be worried? I don’t think Aung San Suu Kyi should be a cause for worry to them.”

Questioned Thursday in New York about the possibility of Suu Kyi’s release, Gambari said the world body was hopeful.

The U.N. made “a recommendation, a request to the authorities to consider lifting the restrictions and also releasing other political detainees as that would give a signal that Myanmar is indeed truly ready to open a new page with the U.N. and international community, but that is to be seen,” he said.

The junta took power in 1988 after crushing vast pro-democracy demonstrations in the country formerly known as Burma. In 1990, it refused to hand over power when Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in general elections.

The United States and many Western nations shun the junta because of its poor human rights record and failure to hand over power to Suu Kyi’s party.

Party members gained further hope for the release from an unusual comment this past week by Myanmar national police chief Maj. Gen. Khin Yi, who said Suu Kyi was unlikely to be able to draw large crowds because support for her had dwindled over the years.

“I can handle every situation. There will not be rallies and riots in Myanmar if Aung San Suu Kyi is released,” Khin Yi said on the sidelines of a regional security conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The government’s rationale for detaining Suu Kyi has been that she could be a threat to public order.

By coincidence, Saturday is the anniversary of the democracy party’s election victory, which the party will mark at its headquarters in Yangon.