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Aung San Suu Kyi taken from “house arrest” and sent to Insein Prison

May 14, 2009

From The New York Times

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was taken to prison by Myanmar security officials on Thursday morning and was scheduled to stand trial later in the day for allowing an American man to stay overnight in her home, an apparent violation of her long-term house arrest, her lawyer said.

The American, identified as John William Yettaw, of Falcon, Mo., swam across a lake in central Yangon last week and sneaked into Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi’s heavily guarded residential compound. She pleaded with him to leave, her lawyer said in an interview on Thursday, but he complained of cramping and she allowed him to stay.

The lawyer, U Kyi Win, called Mr. Yettaw “a nutty fellow.”

American consular officials have met briefly with Mr. Yettaw, although the motives for his escapade are still unclear. He remains in jail in Yangon.

Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, 63, who won the 1991 Nobel Prize for her pro-democracy work in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has been under house arrest for six years. She is allowed no visitors without state permission, and even senior foreign diplomats are routinely refused permission to meet with her. She will most likely be charged with violating the terms of her detention, Mr. Kyi Win said.

The incident could give the authoritarian military junta a convenient reason to extend her house arrest, which by some calculations is to end on May 27. A statutory five-year limit on her house arrest was extended last year for another year and the government was facing a deadline and the question of her legal status.

“The most important issue is to try to undermine the so-called last time they would be able to hold her,” said Josef Silverstein, an expert on Myanmar at Rutgers University. “Now they have an ‘emergency situation’ and they can begin the clock all over again.”

With an election scheduled for next year in Myanmar under a new Constitution, he said: “It’s clear that this is an attempt to undermine her credibility with the population. So instead of looking at the culprits — the man who sneaked in or the security guards who failed to keep him out — they are putting the blame on her.”

If convicted, she could be sentenced to three to five years in prison.

When security officials went for Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday morning, Mr. Kyi Win said, they told her to gather her belongings, as if she would not be returning soon.

“Now they have a chance to put her in a longer detention, and they would like to degrade her and put her in a prison like a common prisoner,” said Aung Din, executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, an exile group.

“This is a clear case of intrusion,” Mr. Kyi Win said of the case of the swimmer. “There was a breach of security. She was about to report it to the security guards outside but he begged and said he would go away soon. She had some pity for the chap.”

Mr. Kyi Win said Mr. Yettaw was a Mormon and that he had prayed often while he was in the house. Mr. Yettaw was fished from the lake by the police as he swam away from the house on the night of May 5.

Shortly after his departure, doctors were called to Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi’s house to treat her for dehydration and low blood pressure. Her condition has improved since then, Mr. Kyi Win said.

One Comment leave one →
  1. M3T4L M0NK permalink
    May 16, 2009 12:24 am

    Sad, really. I signed the petiton, though, so hopefully more people will add their names and get something done.

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