Monday, August 17, 2009

Burmese Puzzled and Angered by Yettaw’s Release

The Irrawaddy News

The release of John W Yettaw, the American who got Aung San Suu Kyi into trouble by intruding into her home, has puzzled and angered many Burmese.

Bo Kyi, joint-secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Burmese human rights group based on the Burmese-Thai border, said Yettaw’s release came as no surprise. “I think the regime just wanted to use him. Everybody knows that the regime wanted Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, not Yettaw.”

Bo Kyi was accused by the regime of sending the American to Burma, where he entered Suu Kyi’s home illegally at the beginning of May and gave the regime a pretext for arresting her and putting her on trial. She was sentenced to three years hard labor, but had her sentence cut to 18 months house arrest.

Yettaw was sentenced to seven years imprisonment, but a US senator, Jim Webb secured his release after a meeting with junta leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe.

Several Burmese, both within the country and in exile, likened the drama to a Hollywood farce.

One wrote on the Web site of The Irrawaddy: “Webb’s performance reminds me of Patti Page's song ‘How much is that (Yankie) doggie in the window” and [a] ‘Saving Private Yettaw’ movie directed by Than Shwe. Perhaps, they might win Oscars next year.”

A Rangoon physician said it was “unreasonable that the main culprit in the case was released but Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is totally innocent, is still detained.”

Win Tin, a prominent opposition leader said the Burmese were interested not in the release of Yettaw but in Suu Kyi’s fate.

Aung Naing Oo, a Burmese analyst based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, said the junta killed two birds with one stone by freeing Yettaw. “Now the regime successfully keeps Daw Aung San Suu Kyi under arrest and then they may reopen engagement with Washington.”

A veteran Rangoon journalist speculated that Webb’s success in securing Yettaw’s release was “part of the packages from America to restore a normal relationship with the regime.”

Speculation continued that Yettaw’s venture had been orchestrated—also with help from the US—to create a legal case against Suu Kyi. There were suggestions, not supported by hard evidence, that Yettaw had been paid by the regime to undertake it.

Yettaw claimed he entered Suu Kyi’s home to warn her after dreaming that she was in danger of assassination.

For his part, Senator Webb said in Rangoon: “I believe he (Yettaw) was probably motivated by good intentions but he committed a very serious violation in this country.”

Webb found good words to say to the regime about its role in the drama. “It was a good gesture from your country to our country for humanitarian reasons to allow him [Yettaw] to return to his family,” he told the junta.

Not only Yettaw’s family rejoiced at his release. One source at Insein Prison, where Yettaw spent the past three months—much of the time in the prison hospital—told The Irrawaddy anonymously: “He complained all the time.”

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