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Suu Kyi on Trial Because American Had "A Vision"

Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi is on Trial Because an American Had "A Vision"


by Richard S. Ehrlich


Click to enlarge

RANGOON, Burma -- Aung San Suu Kyi in her home, during a brief period of freedom from house arrest, on July 16, 1995.
Photo © by Richard S. Ehrlich

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Burma's military regime wants the world's most famous political prisoner, Aung San Suu Kyi, to confess why she allegedly broke the law to shelter an American Mormon who "had a vision," sneaked into her mildewing villa, and made a video.

Burma's military, which seized power in a 1962 coup, regards Mrs. Suu Kyi as a repeat offender who allegedly provided illegal hospitality to the same American, John Yettaw, five months ago without her being punished.

The current trial of Mrs. Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, hinges on her association with Mr. Yettaw, 53, from Falcon, Missouri.

Police said Mrs. Suu Kyi and her two female aides, who live in her two-story villa, fed Mr. Yettaw after he emerged, dripping wet, at her door at 11 p.m. on May 3 from his swim across Inya Lake which laps her spacious garden.

Voluntarily allowing Mr. Yettaw to then spend two nights at her home would defy Burma's law against permitting any foreigner to remain unregistered at any address overnight.

Her lawyers reportedly said she asked him to leave soon after he arrived.

But if Mr. Yettaw refused to do so, it was unclear why Mrs. Suu Kyi did not call the police to remove him.

On Thursday (May 21), the court watched a lengthy video Mr. Yettaw made in her home.

Scenes included a close-up of a wall-mounted, framed portrait of Mrs. Suu Kyi's assassinated father General Aung San, who is Burma's independence hero.


Click to enlarge

RANGOON, Burma -- A sepia-colored photograph of Burma's revered independence hero, the assassinated General Aung San, hangs on the wall in the home of his daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi, on July 16, 1995.
Photo © by Richard S. Ehrlich

"There was no other person, except Yettaw himself, in the video," said Mr. Nyan Win, a spokesman for Mrs. Suu Kyi's political party who attended the trial in her defense team.

"He said he had asked her permission to take photos, but she refused. She seemed scared, so he said he felt sorry because of that," Nyan Win told reporters.

On Tuesday (May 19), Mr. Yettaw reportedly told his lawyer, "I had a vision that her life would be in danger."

Mr. Yettaw said, "I had come to Myanmar [Burma] to warn Myanmar authorities and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi against that danger," Mr. Nyan Win quoted him as saying.

Mr. Yettaw, and Mrs. Suu Kyi's two female aides, are also on trial.

The proceedings were open to diplomats and journalists on Wednesday, but continued behind closed doors on Thursday.

Mrs. Suu Kyi apparently remembered Mr. Yettaw from his previous illegal stay at her home on November 30, and may have read "The Book of Mormon" which he left on the doorstep of the Oxford-educated, Buddhist widow, police said.

"Criminal Case No 47/2009" was being heard inside Rangoon's dreaded Insein Prison, where Mrs. Suu Kyi and Mr. Yettaw were being held.

"The 1975 Law to Safeguard the State Against the Dangers of Those Desiring to Cause Subversive Acts," is the wordy, official name in the penal code governing a slew of violations, including her alleged collaboration with a foreigner.

During the past few days, police testified they were standing near a bus stop on May 5 when they saw something floating in Inya Lake about 100 yards away.

Police told the court they pulled the American out of the urban lake, and he displayed his U.S. passport.

Mr. Yettaw was allegedly carrying two empty five-liter water bottles -- apparently as floatation devices -- plus a camera wrapped in plastic, a screwdriver, pliers, a laser, a flashlight, 28 batteries, and more than 200 US dollars in cash.


Click to enlarge

RANGOON, Burma -- Aung San Suu Kyi's lakeside two-story villa, during a brief period when foreign journalists were allowed to visit her on July 16, 1995, before she was again sentenced to more years under house arrest.
Photo © by Richard S. Ehrlich

Police said he also possessed a photograph of Gen. Aung San, and a picture of a red flag emblazoned with a yellow "fighting peacock," which is the official flag of Mrs. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party.

Though Mrs. Suu Kyi was confined in 1990, her party won a landslide victory in a nationwide election, which was immediately ignored by the junta because she was to become Burma's next prime minister.

Burma's generals despise Mrs. Suu Kyi because she wants to topple their dictatorship.

She has refused their suggestion that she leave the country, because she fears they would never allow her to return to Burma.

Instead, she has remained under house arrest for more than 13 of the past 19 years, with her health becoming increasingly frail and her contact with the outside world shrinking as the years go by.

Diplomats, and Mrs. Suu Kyi's supporters, expected her to be found guilty at her trial, and locked away long enough for the military to stage a planned election next year in which she would not be allowed as a candidate.

The scripted poll is widely seen as a stilted attempt by the generals to provide themselves with some form of a mandate.

Burma, also known as Myanmar, is mainland Southeast Asia's biggest country and has long been upset about foreign interference, dating back to British colonial times before its 1948 independence.

One year ago, in response to the May 2008 Cyclone Nargis which killed an estimated 100,000 Burmese, the U.S. Navy offered to send the USS Kitty Hawk and USS Nimitz up the Bay of Bengal to Burma's southern coast, to deliver humanitarian aid.

Burma's junta rejected the U.S. move, after lecturing its impoverished citizens about America's invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan where, the regime said, Washington's anti-terrorism and pro-democracy stance was a "pretext" for installing "puppet governments" in Baghdad and Kabul.

Suu Kyi is often castigated by the Burmese military as a wedge which Washington, London and other foreign powers are using to crack the country open, so they can exploit its vast natural resources and strategic location along the frontiers of China, Thailand, Bangladesh and India.

*************

Richard S Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist who has reported news from Asia since 1978. He is co-author of "Hello My Big Big Honey!", a non-fiction book of investigative journalism, and his web page is http://www.asia-correspondent.110mb.com

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