Wednesday, August 12, 2009

UNSC Meeting on Burma Remains Inconclusive

The Irrawaddy News

WASHINGTON— An emergency meeting of the powerful United Nations Security Council convened on Tuesday afternoon at the request of France to discuss the situation in Burma in the aftermath of the fresh sentence against pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

However, the meeting ended without conclusion because of sharp differences among its members.

Emerging from the closed-door meeting, the Security Council president for the month of August, Ambassador John Sawers from Britain, said the 15-member UN body would meet again on Wednesday.

A draft statement was circulated by the United States among the member countries, which, among other things, condemns the conviction of Aung San Suu Kyi and calls for her immediate release and ability to participate in the political process.

When asked about Russia and China, the two members that have asked for more time to consider the draft statement, Deputy French Ambassador to the UN Jean-Pierre Lacroix said “I mean, everybody pretty much knows the dynamic within the Council, but we are in the midst of a discussion now and, as I said, we will do our best to try and achieve the kind of outcome that we are looking for.

“The draft statement has been circulated by the US delegation. We support that initiative, we support that draft. Some members of the Council have asked for some time to communicate this draft to their capital, and we respect that. But it is our firm position that there has to be a speedy and firm reaction of the Security Council,” he said.

“It has been our longstanding position, but also one of the [UN] secretary-general, that if there is to be an inclusive and fair electoral process in Burma, it cannot be without the participation of all relevant political players, particularly Aung San Suu Kyi. That is why we think there has to be a reaction by the Security Council. The verdict is in clear violation and breach of the request made by the Security Council,” he added.

Talking to reporters, the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said: “We recognize that other members of the Council may take different views on this, and we think it is important nonetheless to have a discussion and a debate and to seek as a matter of principle and policy a statement by the Council in accord with the principles of the Charter and the principles of democracy and respect for human rights that we are committed to.”

Earlier in the day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his deep disappointment over the verdict and deplored the decision.

“The secretary-general urges the [Burmese] government to immediately and unconditionally release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and to engage with her without delay as an essential partner in the process of national dialogue and reconciliation,” said a statement issued by his spokesperson.

“Unless she and all other political prisoners in Myanmar [Burma] are released and allowed to participate in free and fair elections, the credibility of the political process will remain in doubt,” the statement said.

Ban also spoke to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown after Suu Kyi was sentenced to another 18 months of house arrest.

Meanwhile, however, China urged the international community to respect Burma's judicial sovereignty, reacting to the regime's decision to prolong the pro-democracy leader’s house arrest, according to Agence France-Presse news agency.

"The international community should fully respect Myanmar's judicial sovereignty," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.

Meanwhile Malaysia's foreign minister called for an "urgent meeting" of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) after the verdict was announced.

"I think there is a need for Asean foreign ministers to have an urgent meeting to discuss this issue, which is of grave concern," Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said.

"With this sentence there is no possibility for Aung San Suu Kyi to participate in the general election next year which should be free, fair and inclusive," he added.

READ MORE---> UNSC Meeting on Burma Remains Inconclusive...

Inside the Courtroom


At 10 a.m. word was out that at least 30 reporters and several international diplomats were to be allowed to witness the final day’s proceedings at Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial.

Although cameras and mobile phones were prohibited inside the courtroom, security personnel were on hand to video everyone entering.

The “special court” inside the prison compound had been elaborately and garishly decorated for the occasion. It looked like the Vaudeville Theater with the invited guests seated on red chairs staring at a stage framed in garish yellow curtains.

The court convened at 10:45 a.m. when John W Yettaw, who has been receiving medical treatment recently for a stroke, was led into the court wearing a blue and white long-sleeved shirt and milk-colored trousers.

Aung San Suu Kyi entered the court at 10:50 a.m. She was wearing a traditional pink blouse and a brown sarong. She looked pale and rather frail. As soon as she came in, she offered a few words of thanks to the diplomats for coming to the trial, and apologized for being late. Her companions Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma followed her in.

At 11 a.m., the judges began reading out the case history of John W Yettaw. They concluded with the verdict: for violating the Immigration Act, he was sentenced to three years in prison with hard labor. For violating the Municipal Act which prohibits swimming in Inya Lake, he was sentenced to one year in prison with hard labor.

The judges then turned to the case of Aung San Suu Kyi and everyone in the courtroom maintained a heavy silence. The diplomats and journalists concentrated intently. Suu Kyi’s lawyers stood up to pay respect to the court. The Lady also stood up for a short while. Her mood was calm. Yettaw, on the other hand, sat forlorn with his head bowed, although his lawyer was standing.

The judge proceeded to read out the case history. It took quite some time. He concluded by stating that it was incorrect to assert that the 1974 constitution had been abolished; it is still in effect. Therefore, he said, Aung San Suu Kyi, Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma were each sentenced to three years in prison with hard labor under Section 22 of the Law to Safeguard the State against Dangers of Those Desiring to Cause Subversive Acts (1975).

Yettaw was also sentenced to another three years in prison for violating Section 22 of the same act.

After reading out the verdicts, the mood among the diplomats became anxious and agitated, but the judges left the courtroom immediately.

Then, while Suu Kyi was talking to her lawyers and preparing to leave the courtroom, Minister for Home Affairs Maj-Gen Maung Oo walked in and announced that he had a prepared statement that the diplomats and journalists might like to hear.

He read out an order by Snr-Gen Than Shwe stating that if the court found Suu Kyi guilty, he would reduce the sentence in half and suspend it. If she would live “well” at her Inya Lake home under the restrictions imposed on her, she would be granted amnesty before her suspended sentence had expired.

He stated that the restrictions that Aung San Suu Kyi, Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma must follow are:

*- they must live in her residence located on University Avenue;
*- they are only allowed to go out into the house’s yard;
*- they can get access to doctors and nurses for health reasons;
*- Suu Kyi can meet guests in accordance with permission from the authorities concerned;
*- she can watch local TV channels such as Myawaddy and MRTV (Myanmar Radio and Television),
*- as well as local newspapers and journals;
*- and she can request paper if she needs to write something.

Apart from the above restrictions,
*- if she wants to do something, she can do it if she gets permission from the authorities concerned,
*- and she must live under these restrictions for the next 18 months,
Maung Oo said.

Despite looking weak, Suu Kyi’s eyes were as bright as ever as she greeted the diplomats. Everyone filtered out the courtroom at 12:30.

READ MORE---> Inside the Courtroom...

Suu Kyi’s life of solitude: 18 more months of house arrest loom

By Richard Lloyd Parry, Asia Editor

(Times online) -She rises early, meditates, and reads widely and eclectically, from the novels of John le Carré to Buddhist theology. She plays her piano, an instrument whose tuning has been distorted by the tropical heat. She is allowed no radio, let alone a telephone or television; as far as visitors go, she is lucky if she receives a monthly visit from her doctor.

For 13 years and 293 days, this has been the life that Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese democracy leader, has endured. And yesterday, after a three-month trial, she was returned to it — for at least another year and a half.

Western governments reacted with fury and the EU promised new sanctions, after Ms Suu Kyi was sentenced to a further 18 months of incarceration after an uninvited visit by an eccentric American well-wisher to the home where she was being detained.

The court in the Insein Prison in Rangoon sentenced Ms Suu Kyi to three years’ hard labour, but Senior General Than Shwe, the leader of Burma’s military dictatorship, commuted that to a year and a half under house arrest.

John Yettaw, 53, whose late-night swim led to the trial, was sentenced to seven years of hard labour.

The reduction of Ms Suu Kyi’s sentence, which could have been as long as five years, appears to have been a consequence of intense international pressure. Nonetheless, the verdicts were denounced by Western governments, especially the EU which promised targeted sanctions against the business interests of the junta.

President Obama and the UN Secretary-General demanded her unconditional release. “She should not have been tried, and she should not have been convicted,” Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, said.

Gordon Brown said: “This is a purely political sentence . . . The façade of her prosecution is made more monstrous because its real objective is to sever her bond with the people for whom she is a beacon of hope and resistance.”

The sentence will take Ms Suu Kyi out of the elections due next year, and will confirm many of the regime’s critics in their suspicion that the charges were politically motivated. Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won an overwhelming victory in the last election in 1990, a result that was never accepted by the regime.

Her conviction was no surprise, and the preparations she made show the way that she spends her time in detention. Her lawyers and supporters have assembled a library including the le Carré novels and other English and French fiction, biographies, dictionaries and Buddhist texts.

She has occasionally been visited by Ibrahim Gambari, Ban Ki Moon’s envoy to Burma. But when the UN Secretary-General himself went to Rangoon last month, he was refused permission to see her.

Her husband, the Oxford scholar Michael Aris, died of cancer in 1999 at the age of 53, but she was unable to see him in his final days. The junta refused him an entry visa and Ms Suu Kyi feared that if she left Burma she would not be allowed to return. She has seen neither of her sons, now in their thirties, for a decade.

Other prisoners of conscience, such as Nelson Mandela, have endured long periods of detention, but Ms Suu Kyi’s is peculiarly complete. Despite living in the centre of Rangoon, with the noises of the city audible, she is without company. Her only companions have been her friends, the mother and daughter, Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma, who were also sentenced to 18 months house arrest. The garden of her once elegant villa is returning to jungle and her supporters worry that poisonous snakes may lurk in it.

Foreign diplomats and Burmese journalists who were allowed to attend the final hearing of what had mostly been a closed trial, said that Ms Suu Kyi reacted calmly as the verdict and sentence were read out by the senior of the two judges.

One senior diplomat told The Times: “There was an audible gasp of indignation, when the first verdict came — hard labour for this small, almost fragile woman.” Then the Home Affairs Minister, Major-General Maung Oo, unexpectedly appeared in court and read a statement from General Than Shwe, halving the sentence and allowing Ms Suu Kyi to serve it under house arrest rather than in jail. He referred to the importance of “preserving community peace and tranquillity” and to Ms Suu Kyi’s status as the daughter of Burma’s post-war independence leader, Aung San.

Before leaving the court, she told the 30 diplomats in attendance: “I look forward to working with you in the future for the peace and prosperity of my country and the region.” She was then returned to the home where she was arrested three months ago.

Lawyers for all the defendants said that they would appeal against the convictions. Mr Yettaw, a troubled US military veteran who spent time in hospital last week after suffering epileptic seizures, was arrested after swimming to Ms Suu Kyi’s house because he believed she was in danger of being assassinated. He received three years for abetting Ms Suu Kyi’s violation of her house arrest, three for immigration offences, and one for swimming in an unauthorised area.

Other foreigners who have defied the regime — including the British activist, James Mawdsley — have been released from long sentences and deported after just a few months.

READ MORE---> Suu Kyi’s life of solitude: 18 more months of house arrest loom...

Man's 'divine mission' to save Aung San Suu Kyi lands both in jail

By Danny Kemp in Bangkok

* Suu Kyi's visitor on "divine mission"
* Wanted to warn her she was in great danger
* She got extra 18 months, he got seven years
* Times UK: Suu Kyi silenced again

JOHN Yettaw thought he was on a divine mission to save Aung San Suu Kyi when he swam to her lakeside house - but the troubled US military veteran instead left her at the mercy of Burma's (Myanmar's) junta.

The 54-year-old from Missouri was initially branded a "fool" by lawyers for the detained Nobel Peace Prize winner after his bizarre adventure in May gave the military regime a ready-made excuse to keep her locked up.

Yet a picture eventually emerged of a somewhat tragic figure on a spiritual quest, a devout Mormon who sought redemption after his teenaged son was killed riding a motorcycle that Mr Yettaw had bought for him as a present.

Yesterday, a prison court sentenced Mr Yettaw to seven years of hard labour and imprisonment - three years for breaching security laws, three years for immigration violations and one year for a municipal charge of illegal swimming.

Ms Suu Kyi was sentenced to three years but junta chief Than Shwe signed a special order allowing her to serve just half that time, under house arrest.

The 64-year-old Suu Kyi was later driven back to the house under tight security and the road outside the crumbling villa was sealed off. She has already been in detention for 14 of the past 20 years since Burma's ruling generals - who renamed the country Myanmar - refused to recognise her National League for Democracy's landslide victory in 1990 elections.

The rulings were met with instant condemnation around the world: US President Barack Obama called it "unjust" and demanded Ms Suu Kyi and all other Burmese political prisoners be freed; the European Union vowed the reinforce existing sanctions and France called for new sanctions.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called the charges against Ms Suu Kyi "spurious" and branded the court ruling a "new low" for the junta. The Government will resume broadcasting Radio Australia into Burma, something Ms Suu Kyi had previously called for.

Court drama

The diabetic, epileptic father-of-seven found himself at the centre of Ms Suu Kyi's two-decade struggle with Burma's generals when police arrested him climbing out of the waters of Yangon's Lake Inye on May 6.

He was found with a pair of homemade flippers, along with an amateurish "spy kit" of a black shoulder bag, torch, folding pliers, a camera, two $US100 bills and some Burmese currency.

State media printed photographs that Mr Yettaw had taken of himself before his ill-fated adventure sporting his flippers for his swim, wearing a short-sleeved shirt and looking intensely into the lens. "(Mr Jettaw's) a very sincere and pious person," his lawyer Khin Maung Oo said.

It later transpired that it was not the first time he had been to Ms Suu Kyi's crumbling villa. In November 2008 he walked along a lakeside drain and left a copy of the Book of Mormon at her house before escaping.

His activities spawned conspiracy theories on both sides. During the trial, it emerged that he had been in contact with exile groups in Thailand before crossing over to Burma, prompting the junta to suggest that he was a "secret agent or her (Suu Kyi's) boyfriend".

The exiled activists meanwhile wondered whether he had been paid by Burma's rulers to give a reason for extending her detention, which was due to expire just days after he was arrested.

But it turned out that Mr Yettaw believed he was taking orders from a higher authority still - he had experienced a divine vision that "terrorists" would assassinate Ms Suu Kyi and wanted to warn her.

"Yettaw said he came here because God asked him to," Nyan Win, one of Ms Suu Kyi's lawyers, quoted him as telling the trial in May. "In his vision, the terrorists assassinated Aung San Suu Kyi and then they put the blame for the assassination on the government, so that's why he came here, to warn both of them," he said.

The story behind this vision revealed a lost soul with a difficult past. Military records showed that he had spent a brief spell in the US military in the 1970s, although Mr Yettaw told Burmese authorities that he was a Vietnam veteran with a history of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Married four times and with a history of drink problems and living in trailers, he was described locally as something of a misfit. Then his son Clint died two years ago in a motorcycling accident at the age of 17, and was buried on the family farm in the hamlet of Falcon, according to a US-based website.

The trauma changed everything. He took a backpack tour through Asia with another son, during which he made his first swim to Ms Suu Kyi's house, and then had the latest of the visions which he had experienced for years, according to Newsweek magazine.

Then he left his children with friends and in April this year set off for Thailand and then Rangoon (Yangon). France-Presse

READ MORE---> Man's 'divine mission' to save Aung San Suu Kyi lands both in jail...

Rio 'spy' case: Stern Hu officially charged

By John Garnaut

(SMH) -Chinese prosecutors have finally approved the formal arrest of Rio Tinto iron ore chief Stern Hu and three Chinese colleagues, laying charges of bribery and obtaining commercial secrets, news agency Xinhua reported overnight.

The brief report did not say the four had been charged with stealing state secrets, raising the prospect that authorities have significantly downgraded the case.

Xinjing Bao newspaper reported the case was being investigated under Article 219 of the Criminal Law code which is a commercial secrets provision rather than a state secrets provision.

"That puts it in the business context rather than the realm of state secrets," said Jerome Cohen, professor of law at New York University. "This would seem to be a lowering of the temperature somewhat."

Foreign affairs officials and the Ministry of State Security last month claimed Mr Hu and Liu Caikui, Ge Minqiang and Wang Yong had been stealing state secrets to cause huge economic losses to China.

If the state secrets accusations against Rio Tinto's China iron ore team have been dropped, this would open the way for a far more transparent judicial process, lighter sentenses and perhaps even the possibility of Mr Hu being deported back to Australia.

"Preliminary investigations have showed that the four employees, Stern Hu, Liu Caikui, Ge Minqiang and Wang Yong, had obtained commercial secrets of China's steel and iron industry through improper means, which had violated the country's Criminal Law," reported Xinhua, citing a statement from the China's Supreme People's Procuratorate late last night.

"Prosecution authorities also found evidence to prove that they were involved in commercial bribery," the report said.
"Investigations have also revealed that there were suspects in China's steel and iron enterprises who were providing commercial secrets for them."
John Garnaut is China correspondent for the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald .

READ MORE---> Rio 'spy' case: Stern Hu officially charged...

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