Free Aung San Suu Kyi

Reply Tue 28 Jul, 2009 05:07 am
Suu Kyi verdict 'set for Friday'

Aung San Suu Kyi meets Thai, Singapore and Russian diplomats, 20 May

The court presiding over the trial of Burma's detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will deliver its verdict on Friday, her lawyer has said.

Ms Suu Kyi faces five years in jail if she is convicted of violating the terms of her house arrest by letting a US man stay in her home uninvited.

The trial had initially been expected to last a few days, but has now dragged on for more than two months.

Despite widespread calls for her release, a guilty verdict is expected.

Legal arguments

Prosecutors argue that Aung San Suu Kyi must be held responsible for the midnight swim to her home by the American well-wisher John Yettaw in early May.

Her lawyers have argued that the law she has been charged under is part of a constitution abolished 25 years ago. In any case, they say, she cannot be responsible for the incident as she was living under tightly-guarded house arrest at the time.

Police vehicles parked near Insein Prison, Burma, 10 July
Police are closely guarding the prison where the trial is being held

Defence lawyers gave their final statements on Tuesday, in response to the prosecution's closing arguments the day before.

"The verdict will be given this coming Friday," Aung San Suu Kyi's lawyer Nyan Win told reporters after the session, adding that sentencing was expected on the same day.

An unnamed military official also confirmed that a decision would be announced on Friday.

Locked away

Before the start of Tuesday's session, Nyan Win said he held out hope for a verdict in Ms Suu Kyi's favour.

"We are confident that we will win the case if things go according to the law, he told reporters.

But analysts say the Burmese junta may use this trial to make sure the popular pro-democracy leader is still in detention during elections planned for early next year.

Nyan Win still holds out hope that Aung San Suu Kyi will not be found guilty

Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won the last elections in 1988 but was never allowed to take power.

The 64-year-old has spent nearly 14 of the last 20 years in detention, much of it at her Rangoon home.

Diplomats from Japan, Singapore, Thailand and the US were allowed to attend the trial in its closing stages, in what analysts say is a sign that the government has belatedly recognised as the level of international anger at trying Ms Suu Kyi on such bizarre charges.

Despite the risk of arrest, hundreds of her supporters have been rallying outside the prison where she's being held.

On Monday international human rights group Amnesty International named her as an "Ambassador of Conscience" - its highest honour - for her efforts to promote democracy.

Reply Fri 31 Jul, 2009 01:25 am
Hmmm ... a delayed verdict.
I think the junta well & truly knows that a guilty verdict would be met by utter outrage by many governments in the international community, say nothing of human rights organizations. So they're stalling. I dearly hope that those countries concerned about the abuse of Aung San Suu Kyi's rights (for so long!) & of course, also the rights the unfortunate people of Burma, maintain their pressure. They need to know are all watching & waiting. And will continue to do so.:

Suu Kyi verdict delayed until August 11

By South East Asia correspondent Karen Percy and wire/ABC news online
Posted 1 hour 51 minutes ago
Updated 1 hour 47 minutes ago

Aung San Suu Kyi has spent 14 years in detention. (Reuters: Sukree Sukplang, file photo)

A court in Rangoon has delayed the verdict in the case against the Burmese opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

The verdict against the pro-democracy hero was supposed to be read today, but the court has delayed it until August 11.

Suu Kyi has been tried on charges that she breached the terms of her house arrest when an uninvited American man, John Yettaw, spent two nights in her home in early May.

Yettaw had swum across Lake Inya in Rangoon to get to her. He has also been on trial.

Suu Kyi has spent 14 years in detention since winning elections in 1990.

She faces five years in jail if found guilty.

She is said to be bracing for the worst.

Her lawyers have argued that the Burmese authorities are responsible for security around her home and they should be blamed.

They also say the statute under which she has been charged has expired.

A guilty verdict is widely expected in a country where the courts routinely favour the military junta, which has ruled Myanmar since a 1962 coup.

The international community has expressed outrage over the trial and made repeated demands for the charges to be dropped and Suu Kyi be freed.

The junta has ignored the calls and told its critics not to meddle in its internal affairs.

Opponents of the military government say the trial is an attempt to keep Suu Kyi in detention before and during elections next year, which they say will be a sham intended to legitimise the regime.

- ABC/Reuters

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Reply Fri 31 Jul, 2009 01:46 am
This tribute to Aung San Suu Kyi, by Desmond M Tutu, the former Archbishop of Cape Town and recipient of the Nobel peace prize, was posted yesterday in the UK press:

Desmond Tutu: my tribute to Burma's opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi
The Guardian, Thursday 30 July 2009

In the week when Amnesty International awarded Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi its highest accolade, Ambassador of Conscience, a fellow Nobel laureate pays tribute

Aung San Suu Kyi in May 2002 Photograph: STEPHEN SHAVER/AFP/Getty Images

I think of my sister Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi every day. Her picture hangs on the wall of my office, reminding me that, thousands of miles away in Asia, a nation is oppressed. Every day I ask myself: have I done everything I can try to end the atrocities being committed in Burma? And I pray that world leaders will ask themselves the same question. For if they did, the answer would be "no", and perhaps their conscience will finally force them to act.

Humankind has the ability to live in freedom and in peace. We have seen that goodness has triumphed over evil; we have witnessed political transitions in South Africa, and elsewhere, evidencing that we live in a moral universe. Our world is sometimes lacking wise and good leadership or, as in the case of Burma, the leadership is forbidden to lead.

Aung San Suu Kyi has now been detained for more than 13 years. She recently passed her 5,000th day in detention. Every one of those days is a tragedy and a lost opportunity. The whole world, not just the people of Burma, suffers from this loss. We desperately need the kind of moral and principled leadership that Aung San Suu Kyi would provide. And when you add the more than 2,100 political prisoners who are also in Burma's jails, and the thousands more jailed in recent decades, the true scale of injustice, but also of lost potential, becomes heartbreakingly clear.

Like many leaders, Aung San Suu Kyi has had to make great personal sacrifices. It is cruel enough to deprive an innocent person of her freedom. Burma's generals are crueller still. They try to use her as leverage to make her submit to their will. They refused to allow her husband to visit one last time when he was dying of cancer. She has grandchildren she has never even met. Yet her will and determination have stayed strong despite her being kept in detention for so many years.

More than anything, the new trial and detention of Aung San Suu Kyi speaks volumes about her effectiveness as a leader. The only reason the generals need to silence her clarion call for freedom is because they fear her and the principles she stands for. She is the greatest threat to their continuing rule.

The universal demand for human freedom cannot be suppressed forever. This is a universal truth that Than Shwe, the dictator of Burma, has failed to understand. How frustrated must he be that no matter how long he keeps Aung San Suu Kyi in detention, no matter how many guns he buys, and no matter how many people he imprisons, Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma will not submit. The demands for the freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners of Burma grow louder and echo around the world, reaching even his new capital hidden in central Burma. Words, however, are not enough. Freedom is never given freely by those who have power; it has to be fought for.

The continuing detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma's other political prisoners is a crime and an indictment of an international community that often substitutes the issuance of repeated statements of concern for effective diplomacy. The UN treats the situation in Burma as if it is just a dispute between two sides, and they must mediate to find a middle ground. The reality is that a brutal, criminal and illegal dictatorship is trying, and failing, to crush those who want freedom and justice. The international community cannot be neutral in the face of evil. That evil must be called what it is, and confronted.

Change is overdue to the framework within which the international community approaches Burma. Twenty years of trying to persuade Burma's generals to reform has not secured any improvement. Forty visits by UN envoys have failed to elicit any change. The warm embrace of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) did not improve the behaviour of the regime towards Burma's citizens whether Christian, Buddhist or Muslim. The regime rules with an iron fist and those under its rule have suffered long enough.

Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters have time and again offered to dialogue with the regime. They offered a path of reconciliation and non-violent transition. Even as Aung San Suu Kyi stood before the regime's sham court, facing five years' imprisonment, we heard her voice loud and strong. She said: "There could be many opportunities for national reconciliation if all parties so wished."

Burma's generals must now face the consequences of their actions. The detention of Aung San Suu Kyi is as clear a signal as we could get that there will be no chance of reform and that the regime's "road map to democracy", including the call for elections, in 2010, is an obstacle to justice.

A new report from Harvard Law School, Crimes in Burma, commissioned by some of the most respected jurists in international law, has used the UN's own reports to highlight how Burma's generals have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Burma's generals are criminals, and must be treated as such. Than Shwe should be held accountable for abominable atrocities: his soldiers rape ethnic women and children, they torture, mutilate and murder at will. In eastern Burma, more than 3,300 ethnic villages have been destroyed, more than in Darfur. Civilians are deliberately targeted and shot on sight.

Than Shwe spurned the compassion of those willing to provide assistance following Cyclone Nargis. Instead, he conducted a referendum and he declared his undemocratic constitution the victor while victims perished from the cyclone's devastation. These are war crimes and crimes against humanity. Than Shwe and the rest of the generals cannot be allowed to go unpunished. The UN must establish a commission of inquiry, with a view to compiling evidence for prosecution. Failure to do so amounts to complicity with these crimes.

An international arms embargo must also be imposed immediately. Those countries supplying arms to Burma are facilitating these atrocities. Countries across the world must declare their support for a global arms embargo, making it impossible for China to resist such a move at the Security Council.

Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma deserve nothing less than our most strenuous efforts to help them secure their freedom. Every day we must ask ourselves: have we done everything that we can? I pledge that I will not rest until Aung San Suu Kyi, and all the people of Burma, are free. Please join me.

Reply Fri 31 Jul, 2009 01:50 am
Thanks for this thread MsOlga, even though it took me months to find it!
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Reply Fri 31 Jul, 2009 02:10 am
What a woman.

Reply Fri 31 Jul, 2009 02:21 am
I couldn't agree more, Deb. The sacrifices she has made for her own people are incredible.
I loved Desmond Tutu's tribute to her. Our governments could be doing so much more!
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Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 02:00 am
Appalling verdict, absolutely appalling. A pox on the junta!:

Suu Kyi found guilty
By South-East Asia correspondent Karen Percy/ABC News online
Posted 1 hour 35 minutes ago
Updated 20 minutes ago

Aung San Suu Kyi denied the charge but expected to be found guilty. (Reuters: Sukree Sukplang, file photo)

Burma's detained opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been found guilty of breaching the country's security laws and sentenced to another 18 months under house arrest.

The charges stemmed from a mysterious incident in which American war veteran John Yettaw swam uninvited to her lakeside home in May in central Rangoon.

Yettaw spent two nights at her house, and his presence there breached the terms of Suu Kyi's house arrest.

Suu Kyi's lawyers had argued that because the state had put her in detention, it was responsible for any security breaches at her lakeside home.

Yettaw has been given a seven-year jail term.

The trial began in mid-May but has been beset with delays and a guilty verdict was widely expected.

Critics say the trial was designed to ensure Ms Suu Kyi could not take part in national elections scheduled for next year.

Ms Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 14 years in the past two decades.

She won the 1990 elections but was never allowed to take office.

In a rare move, local reporters are understood to have been allowed into the courtroom to listen to the verdict.

Western reporters are banned from the country.

Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 02:13 am
Well, that keeps her nicely tucked away during next year's "democratic election" in Burma, doesn't it? What a farce.
Poor Burmese people.
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 02:32 am
According to a report I just heard on PM (ABC radio, Australia), there are now an estimated 2000+ political prisoners being held in Burmese jails. God knows how many there will be by the time of next year's "elections".
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Reply Thu 13 Aug, 2009 01:26 am
Today's editorial from the AGE newspaper:

A victory for the generals, another defeat for humanity
August 13, 2009/The AGE (Melbourne, Australia

THE administration of justice in Burma has a certain predictability when it involves any perceived threat to the ruling junta. It came as no surprise, then, that after an 86-day trial characterised by delays and a lack of proper judicial process, a military-dominated court in Rangoon this week found democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi guilty of breaching the terms of her house arrest by failing to report an uninvited visit by an American man who swam to her lakeside home.

Under Burmese law, the Nobel laureate faced up to five years in prison. In the end, Ms Suu Kyi, who has spent nearly 14 of the past

20 years under house arrest, had her home detention extended by another 18 months. Significantly, the court's original sentence of three years' hard labour was reduced after the so-called intervention of the country's military leader, Senior General Than Shwe.

Seen in the most positive light, this relatively lenient sentence could be interpreted as a sign that the regime was swayed by the force of international concern over Ms Suu Kyi's welfare and widespread calls for her release. Given that the regime has historically shown little regard for world opinion, however, this is unlikely to be the case.

Others have suggested the junta may have hoped that this ostensibly magnanimous gesture would somehow make its illegal rule more acceptable to the rest of the world and in turn ease the pressure upon it to change its ways and conform to the internationally accepted norms of conduct. But, again, the generals have demonstrated on many occasions - most recently by their bloody suppression of the 2007 uprising by Buddhist monks and the criminally negligent response to Cyclone Nargis the following year - that they do not care what the world thinks of them. They are prepared to weather a barrage of criticism and international sanctions while ensuring their control of the country remains entrenched.

The sad, disturbing reality of Ms Suu Kyi's trial and conviction is that the regime has seized upon the opportunity presented to it by foolhardy American John Yettaw (who has himself been sentenced to seven years' jail) to prolong the National League for Democracy leader's detention and prevent her from taking part in next year's general elections. The National League for Democracy won an overwhelming victory in the previous elections, in 1990, but the regime refused to recognise the result.

Even though the forthcoming elections will be no more than a charade - the new parliament will be dominated by the military and military-friendly appointees - the generals have effectively succeeded in eliminating the only real threat to their hold on power, and the beleaguered Burmese people's only hope for a more democratic future. They have ensured that the outcome of the poll will be the one they want.

The international community has been quick to condemn Ms Suu Kyi's politically motivated and manifestly unjust conviction and the extension her home detention.
It has called for her immediate release and threatened tougher economic, legal and diplomatic measures against the regime. US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have rightly expressed their outrage, as has US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who last month raised concerns about the possible transfer of nuclear technology to Burma from North Korea, another oppressive government that appears unperturbed by international pariah status.

While calls for increased sanctions should be welcomed, at the very least as a demonstration of concern for Ms Suu Kyi's welfare, those sanctions and embargoes that have been put in place by the US, the European Union, Australia and other countries over the past 20 years appear to have had little effect on the sustainability of the junta, which has rebuffed any attempts at engagement. As long as Burma is protected by its allies and main trading partners - particularly China, Russia and India - it will be hard to make inroads.

But this does not mean the world should give up seeking to free Burma from a venal regime that has shattered the country's economy and is guilty of ''ethnic cleansing'' and widespread human rights abuses, including using rape as a weapon of suppression. The challenge is to find a way to bring about change, not just for the 64-year-old Ms Suu Kyi but for all the people of Burma. This will not be easy.

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Reply Thu 13 Aug, 2009 01:31 am
Reply Thu 13 Aug, 2009 01:39 am
From today's Sydney Morning Herald:

Reply Thu 13 Aug, 2009 05:39 am
What a woman.
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 02:10 am
What a woman.


You said it before, Deb, but it's absolutely worth repeating. I agree, again!

Aung San Suu Kyi is a remarkable woman! God knows where she gets her strength from!

Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 02:24 am
I have responded to the recent Avaaaz and Amnesty action appeals......but what does that do, really?

Well, Nelson Mandela did 23 years in solitary.

I hope she is feeling that her integrity has given her life meaning and worth.

If only one could tell her directly.

Pity the Burmese have no ******* oil, or anything else that the USA wants, eh?

Well, probably not.

The fight for truth, justice etc seems to leave a lof of folk dead, tortured, starving, dying from radiation, assassinated and generally not happy Jan.


Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 03:33 am
I have responded to the recent Avaaaz and Amnesty action appeals......but what does that do, really?

You've added your name to many, many others. This is important. The junta knows that ordinary people, all over the world, are watching ... & that they object!
Actually, you have done more than I have (just Amnesty). Good on you!

I hope she is feeling that her integrity has given her life meaning and worth.

I can't imagine any other reason for such a sacrifice of her personal freedom for so long. She obviously believes in what she is doing ... & believes it is worth it.

If only one could tell her directly.

Yes. I feel like that, too, Deb.


Pity the Burmese have no ******* oil, or anything else that the USA wants, eh?

Well, the Chinese are behind them. I'm not sure about the exact reasons. I must investigate further. Idea Actually, if we could get the Chinese to show some disapproval ..... <sigh> But, you know ....

The fight for truth, justice etc seems to leave a lof of folk dead, tortured, starving, dying from radiation, assassinated and generally not happy Jan.

Yes. & yes & yes! It's never ending, so it seems. Not at all happy about this either. Sad

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Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 03:39 am
Great cartoon. Who is the prisoner, here?
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 03:56 am
... or (putting it another way) which of these 2 will lose out (badly) if ordinary Burmese people have some semblance of a say in how they are governed?
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Reply Sun 16 Aug, 2009 03:05 am
You've got to wonder what exactly went on in the wheeling & dealing between Senator Webb & Than Shwe. No mention of Aung San Suu Kyi's ongoing detention. She obviously wasn't part of the deal.
Mr Yettaw was jailed for 7 years by the Burmese court. Aung San Suu Kyi faces 18 more months of detention, while Mr Yettaw, the person who caused her problem, goes free.
Senator Webb said "It is my hope that we can take advantage of these gestures as a way to begin laying a foundation of goodwill and confidence-building in the future. " Pardon me if I'm extremely cynical about Senator Webb's words. :

Burma deports Suu Kyi US 'guest'

John Yettaw - image released by Myanmar News Agency, May 2009

The US man jailed for visiting Burma's detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been released and deported.

John Yettaw left Burma on a plane with visiting US Senator Jim Webb, who negotiated the deal after talks with military ruler Than Shwe on Saturday.

Mr Webb was the most senior US official to meet the Burmese leader. He also met pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Mr Yettaw was jailed for seven years over the visit and Ms Suu Kyi was given an additional 18 months' house arrest.

Mr Yettaw's wife, Betty, told the Associated Press that she had not received any official notice he would be returning home.

"If it's true, of course I'm extremely happy, and we're ecstatic," she said by telephone from their home in Camdenton, central Missouri.

'Sent by God'

Senator Webb thanked the Burmese authorities for releasing Mr Yettaw.

"I am not going to apologise for the actions that he took but I believe that it was a good gesture from your government to our country to allow him to return home to his family for humanitarian reasons," he said at Rangoon airport shortly before his departure.

However, Burmese dissidents say Senator Webb's trip could be seen as an endorsement of the poor treatment received by Ms Suu Kyi and more than 2,000 other political prisoners.

After his arrest, Mr Yettaw, said he had been sent by God to deliver a warning to Ms Suu Kyi that she would be assassinated.

Senator Webb asked the Burmese leader for the release of Ms Suu Kyi, his office said.

Later he met the pro-democracy leader for talks lasting about 40 minutes. She was taken to a state guesthouse near her home to meet Senator Webb.

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Reply Sun 16 Aug, 2009 03:36 am

Burma releases US man who swam to Aung San Suu Kyi
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 15 August 2009 20.09 BST

US senator Jim Webb held a private meeting with the head of the Burmese military today and secured the release of US prisoner John Yettaw.

Yettaw had caused controversy in May by swimming, uninvited, across a lake to the home of the Burmese opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for 14 of the past 20 years. The incident was used by the ruling junta as a pretext for a recent trial at which her house arrest was extended for another 18 months, thus denying her the chance to contest next May's elections.

The India-based news agency Mizzima, which is run by Burmese exiles, quoted a government directive saying that Yettaw would be freed following the meeting between Webb and General Than Shwe: "The American John Yettaw is hereby ordered to be deported to his home country on humanitarian grounds in consideration of his health."

Webb's office later confirmed Yettaw would be leaving with the senator on Sundayon a military plane. Webb said he was grateful to the junta and called for further engagement with the country. "I am grateful to the Myanmar government for honouring these requests … It is my hope that we can take advantage of these gestures as a way to begin laying a foundation of goodwill and confidence-building in the future," Webb said in a statement.

British diplomats welcomed the breakthrough and revealed the UK had also covertly adopted a "new approach" to dealing with the junta. A source said officials were using a two-tier approach, which entailed negotiating openly with the Burmese leadership on one hand while maintaining pressure to clean up the country's human rights record on the other.

A Foreign Office source said: "It remains to be seen whether it will be effective."

Webb's meeting with the junta was the highest-level official trip by an American politician to the beleaguered country in more than a decade. He was the first senior American official ever to meet Shwe.

Pictures emerged earlier today of Webb's meetings, first with General Shwe and later a 45-minute visit to 64-year-old Aung San Suu Kyi at a guest house arranged by government officials in Yangon. Details on their discussions were scarce but it is understood that Webb asked for the opposition leader's release.

While the release of Yettaw will likely be seen as a personal coup for the up-and-coming Democratic politician from Virginia, its impact in the world of diplomacy, however, may be more mixed.

It comes after former President Bill Clinton's recent meeting with reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong-il that secured the release of two arrested American journalists who had been sentenced to long jail terms for crossing into the country illegally. Clinton's visit was welcomed by many, who applauded the freeing of the two women. But others attacked it, saying it represented a propaganda coup for Pyongyang, which has long sought direct engagement with the US as it pursues its nuclear weapons programme.

Webb's visit to Burma is likely to be seen in the same light. Some will praise Webb's visit as a victory for President Barack Obama's vow to engage more with the world's repressive regimes as a method of reforming them. Others will see it as giving a brutal foreign government an air of legitimacy.

Some Burmese opposition groups have also expressed doubts about the mission, especially after the brutal crackdown on an attempted pro-democracy uprising in 2007.

A coalition of Burmese activists wrote Webb a letter before his trip, expressing their fears. "We are concerned that the military regime will manipulate and exploit your visit and propagandise that you endorse their treatment [of Aung San Suu Kyi] and more than 2,100 political prisoners," the letter said.

Secrecy has surrounded Webb's mission. The US embassy in Myanmar said it had little knowledge of his plans and that all arrangements were made by his office in Washington. Webb is a noted proponent of engaging with Burma and believes that isolating the country does more harm than good. That is not a popular opinion with many American diplomatic experts, especially among conservatives. But Webb's meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi will help mollify some of those detractors. The Obama administration, along with most other governments, has denounced her recent show trial and guilty verdict. The United Nations has also expressed concern, though a more strongly worded statement condemning it was watered down by Burma's diplomatic allies Russia and China.

Aung San Suu Kyi's latest sentence came after she and Yettaw, 53, of Falcon, Missouri, were convicted of violating the terms of her house arrest when he secretly swam to her house uninvited and spent two days there. The extension of Aung San Suu Kyi's arrest conditions now ensure she cannot take part in elections scheduled for next year.

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