Sunday, May 17, 2009

Myanmar's Suu Kyi defiant ahead of trial - lawyer

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi is in good health and ready to defend herself against new charges that have triggered international condemnation of the military regime, her lawyer said.

Kyi Win, Suu Kyi's main defence lawyer at her trial due to start on Monday, was allowed to meet the Nobel Peace laureate for one hour at a guest house in Yangon's Insein Prison on Saturday.

"She asked me to tell her friends and everyone that she is quite well," Kyi Win told Reuters. "She is ready to tell the truth that she never broke the law."

The 63-year-old Suu Kyi is charged with breaking the conditions of her nearly six-year house arrest after an American intruder sneaked inside her lakeside villa in Yangon this month.

If convicted, she faces up to five years in jail.

Suu Kyi's two female companions have also been charged in a case denounced by critics as a pretext for keeping the charismatic opposition leader in detention ahead of elections in 2010. Her current detention expires on May 27.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide election victory in 1990 only to be denied power by the military, which has ruled the former Burma since 1962.

The generals have detained Suu Kyi for more than 13 of the past 19 years, mostly at her home on a leafy Yangon avenue guarded by police, her phone line cut and visitors restricted.

Suu Kyi's doctor, Tin Myo Win, was freed late on Saturday after he was detained on May 7 for questioning, relatives said. Suu Kyi was recently treated for low blood pressure and dehydration, and activists fear for her health in prison.

Rights groups also slammed the junta on Saturday for revoking the law licence of Aung Thein, a prominent activist lawyer who was to be on Suu Kyi's defence team.

The Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) called it "a blatant attempt by the regime to damage the defence for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her two live-in party members".


Kyi Win said Suu Kyi was innocent because she did not invite John Yettaw, who according to state media swam across Yangon's Inya Lake to her home using homemade flippers earlier this month.

"She told me that they found him at the back of her house at about 5 a.m. She told him to leave, but he refused saying he was exhausted," Kyi Win said.

Suu Kyi did not report him to authorities because "she did not want anybody to get into trouble because of her", he said.

Yettaw, described by state media as a 53-year-old psychology student from Missouri, has been charged with "illegal swimming", immigration violations and encouraging others to break the law.

Kyi Win said Yettaw had tried a similar stunt to meet Suu Kyi in November 2008, but she refused to speak to him and the incident was reported to authorities.

Yettaw's motives remain unclear, but speculation about his role in the junta's latest crackdown on Suu Kyi has swirled for days in the streets of Yangon.

"I think the regime must be behind this incident one way or another. They do not want to free Daw Suu," a retired politician, using the Burmese honorific for older women, said.

The junta has so far ignored the international outcry over what critics say are "trumped up" and "baseless" charges against Suu Kyi.

U.S. President Barack Obama renewed sanctions against the regime on Friday, saying its actions and policies, including the jailing of more than 2,000 political prisoners, continued to pose a serious threat to U.S. interests.

Washington has led the West in tightening sanctions, but Asian neighbours with an eye on the country's rich timber, gas and mineral reserves have favoured a policy of engagement.

Neither has succeeded in coaxing meaningful reforms from junta leader Senior General Than Shwe, who is widely believed to loathe Suu Kyi.

He has vowed to press ahead with a seven-step "roadmap to democracy" expected to culminate in 2010 elections which the West derides as a sham to entrench the military's grip on the country.

Recent Posts from Burma Wants Freedom and Democracy

Recent posts from WHO is WHO in Burma


The Nuke Light of Myanmar Fan Box
The Nuke Light of Myanmar on Facebook
Promote your Page too