Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Detained American Visited Suu Kyi Before?

The Irrawaddy News

BANGKOK — An American accused of swimming across a lake to sneak into the home of detained Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi may have made another secret visit to her last year.

Last week's incident—the first known case of someone creeping unnoticed into Suu Kyi's closely guarded compound—has raised fears that the Nobel Peace laureate may have been ensnared in activities that could put her in further legal trouble.

A new report in a Burmese-language Web site published two photos said to have been found in the digital camera of the visitor, identified by the US Embassy as John William Yettaw. One photo shows a heavyset, middle-aged man posing for a self-portrait in front of a mirror. The other shows feet wearing swimming flippers. The report says Yettaw is from Falcon, Missouri.

The Web site, tharkinwe.com, seems to be close to the country's military-ruled government and hostile to Suu Kyi's democracy movement.

Pro-democracy activists and diplomats in Rangoon have voiced suspicions that the incident may have been concocted by the government. There has been no government comment beyond the original report in the state-run press.

Suu Kyi has already spent more than 13 of the last 19 years—including the past six—in detention without trial for her nonviolent promotion of democracy, despite international pressure for her release.

Her house is a restricted zone, she has no telephone, and she cannot be contacted for comment.

Burma's state-run newspapers reported last week that Yettaw swam on the night of May 3 to the lakeside home of the 63-year-old Suu Kyi and left the same way on the night of May 5, before being arrested the next morning. The swimming distance between the house and where he was arrested is about 1 1/4 miles (2 kilometers).

The reports said the man was found with an empty 1.3-gallon (5-liter) plastic water jug—presumably used as a floatation device—as well as a US passport, a flashlight, pliers, a camera, two $100 bills and some local currency.

Aside from the number of his passport and the claim that the man arrived in Rangoon on May 2 and spent two full days inside Suu Kyi's compound, no other details were given. The authorities were said to be investigating his motives. (JEG's: of course that is all the junta can provide as they have no imagination to develop the plan)

The US Embassy has requested access to the detained man, which as of Monday had still not been granted, embassy spokesman Richard Mei said. He confirmed that Yettaw had made a previous visit to Burma, and said his family had been told of his arrest.

Mei said the embassy did not know about Yettaw's activities.
(JEG's: he has been in Burma before but not to meet DASSK, but his hirer...)

Verifying the detained man's identity has been complicated because the spelling of his name has varied slightly in the Burma's official press. But the name given by the embassy is consistent with details in Monday's Web site account, some of which The Associated Press have confirmed using US public records.

Neighbors, along with a phone listing and court records, confirm that a 53-year-old man named John William Yettaw has a residence in the small rural community of Falcon, Missouri, and previously lived in California. Yettaw has a wife and seven children, most or all of whom live nearby.

Repeated calls to Yettaw's friends and family went unanswered, and messages left had not received a reply by Monday.

The account on the tharkinwe.com Web site included several details that do not seem to be otherwise publicly available, suggesting that they were leaked by security officials. No attribution was given for them.

The most surprising assertion was that Yettaw had confessed to swimming to Suu Kyi's house during his earlier visit to Burma on November 7-December 3, 2008 and staying there for a longer period, not specified in the report. It cited him saying that he had scouted his swimming route using the Google Earth web service.

The Web site's report also said that on arrival last week at Suu Kyi's house, Yettaw first met her two female assistants—a mother and daughter who are her sole allowed companions—and told them that he was tired and hungry after the swim and has diabetes. The two women, supporters of Suu Kyi's party, were said to have given him food.

One of many strict rules the junta imposes on citizens is that they must notify local officials about any overnight visitor who is not a family member. The law also states that foreigners are not allowed to spend the night at a local's home.

Some members of Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy, have been jailed for about two weeks for violating that law.

"I'm not really concerned she could be penalized for this break-in because she didn't invite him in," said Nyan Win, a spokesman for Suu Kyi's party, adding that it was worrisome how easily the man accessed her home. "My main concern is her security."

Suu Kyi is not allowed visitors, aside from her doctor. On infrequent occasions, she is allowed out under tight guard to meet with fellow party leaders and visiting UN representatives.

Another doctor, Dr. Pyone Moe Ei, was granted a medical visit to her home Monday afternoon after she was found last week to be suffering from dehydration and low blood pressure. Her main doctor, Tin Myo Win, was detained last week for questioning after the swimming incident.

Suu Kyi's condition was not disclosed.

Associated Press Writer Maria Fisher in Kansas City, Missouri, contributed to this report.

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