Thursday, May 14, 2009


Ms Suu Kyi in May 2002
Ms Suu Kyi's latest detention order was set to expire this month

Western governments have condemned the "disturbing" new charges brought against Burma's pro-democracy opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the Burmese military government was clearly looking for any pretext to extend Ms Suu Kyi's detention.

The US and EU also expressed concern, saying the move was not justified.

She faces trial on Monday for breaching the terms of her house arrest after an apparently uninvited visit by a US man.

"I am deeply disturbed that Aung San Suu Kyi may be charged with breaching the terms of her detention," Mr Brown said in a statement.


"The Burmese regime is clearly intent on finding any pretext, no matter how tenuous, to extend her unlawful detention," he said.

The US State Department said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had asked for more information on the developments.

"We have seen this report, which is certainly troubling if true," spokesman Ian Kelly was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

Earlier, the EU special envoy to Burma, Piero Fassino, said there was "no justification" for the detention.

Thailand's prime minister also expressed concern on behalf of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), one of the few groups that allow Burma as a member.

"We would like to see positive steps being taken," Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told Reuters, adding that the group was "concerned" by the recent events.

After visiting her at Yangon's notorious Insein prison, Ms Suu Kyi's main lawyer, Kyi Win, told the BBC's Newshour programme that she was physically well and her spirit was strong.


"From all appearances, she is quite well and of course she is a little thin, that's all," he said of the 63-year-old Nobel Peace laureate.

He said she asked him to tell her friends that she was physically well and even offered him encouragement, saying: "You have to have a very strong and stout heart".

Reports say Ms Suu Kyi was charged under the country's Law Safeguarding the State from the Dangers of Subversive Elements.

The charges carry a maximum jail term of five years, which would stretch her detention past its supposed expiry date this month and beyond the 2010 elections.

Her lawyers have vowed to contest the charges.

The American man, John Yettaw, was arrested on 6 May after swimming across a lake to her house and staying there secretly for two days. His motives remain unclear.

Burmese state news agency handout photo of John Yettaw

He will be tried on immigration and security offences, said a lawyer for Ms Suu Kyi. The charges are yet to be confirmed by the government.

The Burmese authorities have described the American as a 53-year-old Vietnam war veteran and resident of the state of Missouri.

Lawyer Kyi Win has blamed Mr Yettaw for her detention, calling him a "fool".

Ms Suu Kyi was detained after her party's victory in a general election in 1990 and has been under house arrest for much of the past 19 years.

Earlier this month, the government rejected an appeal for her to be freed, despite claims from her National League for Democracy (NLD) that she was suffering from low blood pressure and dehydration.

Her condition was said to have improved after her doctor put her on an intravenous drip last week.




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