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1. Ban Warns Junta of Costly Isolation

2. Ban Ki-Moon Leaves Burma Disappointed,8599,1908720,00.html

3. UN's Ban Ki-moon under fire for praising Burma leaders

Ban Warns Junta of Costly Isolation
By LALIT K JHA     Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Washington – Expressing deep disappointment at the failure to make any headway with the leaders of the military junta, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has warned Burma of “costly isolation” if it sticks with its current policy and ignores the concerns of the international community.

Briefing reporters on Ban’s trip to Burma last week, his spokeswoman, Michele Montas, said on Monday that the Secretary General was deeply disappointed that Senior General Than Shwe had refused his request to see Aung San Suu Kyi.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon answers to journalists' questions during a press conference at Suvarnabhumi international airport on July 04, 2009 in Bangkok. (Photo: Getty Images)
“Allowing a visit, he said, would have been an important symbol of the Government's willingness to embark on the kind of meaningful engagement that will be essential if the elections in 2010 are to be seen as credible,” Montas said.

Even as Ban observed that the junta had failed to take a unique opportunity to show its commitment to a new era of political openness, Montas said the Secretary General feels that his visit enabled him to convey the concerns of the international community very frankly and directly to the military government, and he outlined his proposals for progress while he was there.

“Among those proposals are the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners without delay, so that they can be allowed to participate freely in the political process,” Montas said.

Meanwhile the US Campaign for Burma announced that Ban’s Burma policy is “fundamentally flawed” and demanded immediate action by the Security Council in a press release on Monday.

“Ban not only failed to obtain the release of the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi, or even a single political prisoner (out of the country’s 2,100) in Burma, but he also failed to even secure a meeting with her,” the statement said.

"For over a decade, the UN Secretary-General has sent envoys to Burma seeking changes in the country, a policy used by China and Russia as an excuse to avoid action on Burma at the UN Security Council. Finally, the world can see how this process is fundamentally flawed—without strong action by the UN Security Council, even the UN Secretary-General himself has failed," said Aung Din, executive director of US Campaign for Burma.

During his Burma trip last week, Ban met Senior General Than Shwe. "The United Nations must not allow its credibility to be destroyed by a two-bit dictator like Than Shwe," Aung Din said.

"It is time for Ban Ki-moon to ask the UN Security Council to pass a global arms embargo against Burma's military regime, while at the same time initiating an inquiry into crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by Than Shwe's regime,” he said.

Noting that the United Nations has used arms embargoes in numerous cases to press for change in particular countries, notably against apartheid-era South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s, the US Campaign for Burma said a recent report commissioned by five of the world's leading judges and jurists found widespread evidence suggesting that Burma's military regime has been carrying out crimes against humanity and war crimes against its own civilians.

Two weeks ago, nearly 60 members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote to President Obama urging him to take action on crimes against humanity in Burma at the UN Security Council.

Ban Ki-Moon Leaves Burma Disappointed
By Robert Horn Sunday, Jul. 05, 2009

Before it began, United Nations officials had described U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's visit to Burma as a diplomatically risky mission that could end in failure. After it ended, following two days in Burma and two rare and lengthy meetings with General Than Shwe, the reclusive leader of the country's military government, Ban had come away with nothing concrete to show for his venture. His requests to meet imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi were rejected. His pleas for the government to release its 2,000-plus political prisoners were ignored. "I believe the government of Myanmar failed to take a unique opportunity to show its commitment to a new era of openness," Ban told reporters at Bangkok's international airport Saturday night.

Burma, which the ruling junta has renamed Myanmar, hasn't seen anything resembling openness for nearly five decades, having been ruled by military regimes since 1962. Its generals have isolated the country, ground it into poverty and brutally suppressed periodic mass uprisings in support of democracy — the last, in 2007, was led by Buddhist monks who were gunned down or arrested. The regime says it will hold national elections in 2010, but many observers say they are designed to cement military rule under a civilian guise. The democracy movement's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been kept under house arrest for 13 of the past 18 years. The regime has now put her on what U.S. President Barack Obama has called a "show trial" for violating the terms of her house arrest after an American man broke into her home, claiming he had visions she would be assassinated. She faces a five-year prison sentence if convicted. Even Burma's normally circumspect neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have criticized the regime over the trial and Suu Kyi's never-ending imprisonment. (See pictures of foreign investment in Burma.)

During his first meeting with Than Shwe, Ban asked for permission to see Suu Kyi. Than Shwe refused. The U.N.'s top diplomat said the success or failure of his mission should not be judged solely on the benchmark of meeting Aung San Suu Kyi, though he lamented that it would have been "an important symbol of the government's willingness to embark on the kind of meaningful engagement" that would lend credibility to the elections. Ban said his mission served the purpose of allowing him to convey what the international community and the United Nations expects from the regime, like progress toward democracy, directly to the country's leader. He said he did this "as strongly as possible, as hard as I could press." He believes, he said, that Than Shwe will "seriously consider" his proposals for making national elections scheduled for 2010 "credible, inclusive and legitimate."

Democracy activists remain unconvinced. "The regime thumbed its nose at the entire U.N. system," says Debbie Stothard of ALTSEAN, a Southeast Asia–based network of activist groups campaigning for democracy and human rights in Burma. "It's time for the international community and the U.N. to take off the kid gloves. It's time the international community stopped regarding crimes against humanity, repression and human-rights violations as normal for Burma. The regime didn't fail to take this opportunity, it refused to."

Ban's optimism going into last week's meeting probably sprung from his limited success with Than Shwe during a previous meeting in 2008, convincing him to allow outside humanitarian assistance into the country after Cyclone Nargis. But he is far from the first diplomat to fail to persuade Burma's generals to entertain any serious notion of real political reform. Going forward, Ban said he would brief the U.N. on the visit, and the organization would monitor the regime's progress on his proposals, which he did not outline in detail, save for saying election laws and an election commission should be established, and that all political prisoners should be released and all political parties be allowed to participate in the 2010 polls.

Stothard says the regime fears a Security Council inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity. Burma has been engaged in a civil war with various ethnic groups since 1948, although some have signed cease-fire agreements with the government. The regime has been accused of torturing its political prisoners. But China and Russia have opposed any Security Council action on Burma. China, which views Burma as a resource-rich, strategically important client state, is seen as the regime's strongest backer in the international community. "It's time China realized that having instability on its border with Burma is not in its best interests," Stothard says, adding that tensions were increasing between the military and ethnic armies in Burma based near the China border. (Read "The Scramble for a Piece of Burma.")

Russia's expanding trade with Burma includes an agreement to sell the poverty-stricken nation a nuclear research reactor, and the regime has also been bolstering ties with North Korea, receiving arms shipments from its sister Asian pariah state, and employing North Korean engineers to build massive underground bunkers at its fortress-like capital of Naypyidaw.

Ban stressed that he would remain focused on the situation, and said he expected the government "to demonstrate real progress in the near future." Real progress, however, hasn't been seen in Burma since 1962. And contempt for the U.N. is nothing new among Burma's generals. A Burmese, U Thant, served as U.N. Secretary-General for 10 years, from 1961 to 1971. When he died in 1974 and his body was flown back to Burma, leader General Ne Win, the mentor of current ruler Than Shwe, refused U Thant a state funeral or any honors whatsoever.

UN's Ban Ki-moon under fire for praising Burma leaders
* Julian Borger, diplomatic editor
*, Friday 3 July 2009 19.24 BST

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, faced a barrage of criticism tonight for apparently praising the Burmese junta without winning any concessions over human rights or a move towards democracy.

Ban was under pressure to produce concrete results from his two-day mission to Burma, which was criticised as providing an endorsement to the Burmese leadership just as it is staging a trial of the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

The high-stakes visit to Burma comes at a critical time for Ban, whose low-key approach to his job has been criticised as ineffectual. He came under further fire on arrival in Naypyidaw, the regime's headquarters, when he told the head of the junta, General Than Shwe: "I appreciate your commitment to moving your country forward."

"That is absolute nonsense," said Brad Adams, a Burma specialist at Human Rights Watch. "It's just what we implored him not to say, to make these diplomatic gaffes. Than Shwe has steadily moved his country backwards."

British officials were also furious at the remarks. They had urged Ban not to visit Burma, and risk handing the junta a propaganda prize with his visit, without first ensuring he would gain concessions in the form of the release of political prisoners and steps towards genuine democracy.

"Only agreement to release all political prisoners [and] start a genuine dialogue with the opposition and ethnic groups will give any credibility to the elections in 2010," Gordon Brown said in an article in the US online magazine The Huffington Post. According to No 10, Brown calls Ban at least twice a week to discuss Burma.

"I hope that Ban Ki-moon can convince the generals to take the first steps," Brown said. "A serious offer is on the table: the international community will work with Burma if the generals are prepared to embark on a genuine transition to democracy. But if the Burmese regime refuses to engage, the international community must be prepared to respond robustly."

However, Than Shwe said little at his meeting with Ban, and did not grant the secretary general's request to meet Suu Kyi in prison. Ban expressed hope that a meeting could still be permitted.

"I am leaving tomorrow, so logically speaking I am waiting for a reply before my departure," he said. The secretary general added that he had called for the release of all political prisoners before the elections, but got no response. He said Than Shwe had assured him, however, that the vote had been "fair, free and transparent".

However, Adams said: "The benchmark for success can't be what it was in the past. A meeting with Than Shwe is not a success. Even a meeting with Suu Kyi shouldn't be counted as a success, if all it means is she goes from being in jail back to being under house arrest.

"We have cautioned against this trip because it seems to be a trip for its own sake without any prospect of success."

Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate, is on trial because an American supporter entered her compound, breaking the terms of her house arrest. Suu Kyi's lawyers said the man swam to the compound without her permission and had been urged to leave. The trial was adjourned yesterday until 10 July.

Dear All,

I admire the people of Iran and their bravery. My heart goes out to them and I stand with them. The regime in Iran can run, but they can no longer hide. Shall the peoples' power  prevail over the brutal oppressors all over the world. Freedom comes to Iran!

Besides, I am all too familiar with the events taking place in Iran (as we speak), and I could no way differentiate the people's struggle there from our own. Neda is my hero too and reminds me of  young students: Win Maw Oo, Phone Maw (and many more) silenced by bullets that I salute and admire. The massive and peaceful protests in Iran reminds me of 1988 and 2007 nation-wide protests in Burma silenced by guns. The message "Free Iran" reminds me of our own, "Free Burma." And I could keep going on..

These are after all human struggles or the peoples' struggles to live in freedom triggered and motivated by oppression and manipulation by the power-crazy rulers. All humans are born free and have the the pure will to live free. They will rise up if oppressed. Therefore, any struggle to live in freedom any where on the face of this earth is human struggles and is my struggle, your struggle and ours struggle. Therefore, we must support anyway we can to help bring more freedom to the people of Iran.

Threats, warnings, beatings, shootings, killings and brutal crackdowns against unarmed protesters, activists and journalists are pure evil and unacceptable. Please do what you can to stop it. In fact, please support the people of Iran by joining the protests in the Bay Area or in your area. One good place to get the announcements is a face book group called "Bay Area for Iran". They have the protest today (below, but sorry for the last minutes information)

Free Iran! Free Burma!

Nyunt Than


The National Editorial: UN should treat Burma as it has North Korea

NY Times Contributor: Free Aung San Suu Kyi
NEWSWEEK: ‘The Lady’ And The Tramp
Choosing the Right Battle Strategy

UN should treat Burma as it has North Korea

Security Council's new-found unity shows it can overcome its own past

After long and excruciating negotiations over the new sanctions by the United Nations Security Council to punish North Korea for its nuclear-weapons test, once again the council has shown its ability to act in response to a crisis that genuinely threatens global peace and stability. What Pyongyang has done has so rubbed the raw nerves of key players that they are acting with common positions and standards. It is rare indeed for them to agree on common retaliation against North Korea's stubbornness.

This time the harsher sanctions are more targeted, including weapons exports and financial transactions. Furthermore, the resolution allows inspections in port and on the high seas of ships suspected of carrying nuclear technology. It urges North Korea to return to the six-party talks immediately without conditions and abandon its nuclear ambitions. This shows the determination of the 15-member council to adhere to its international obligations.

Unfortunately, the same thing cannot be said of the council's attitude towards Burma and its continued oppression of its citizens. Although the council adopted a non-binding resolution last month in response to the continued detention and farcical trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, it still lacks the teeth to punish one of the world's worst regimes. Like North Korea, Burma's military leaders know how to test the water and push the envelope. They have succeeded before, knowing full well that the council, with its different players and national interests, will never agree on a common plan of action. Worse, the council's attention span is usually brief given the myriad global issues confronting it.

For the time being, the Burmese junta is obviously correct in its assessment. Despite some bridging of the gap between members preferring tougher sanctions and those advocating a softer approach, the council does not see eye to eye on reprimanding Burma. Of course, the five permanent members have something to do with this. Previously, both China and Russia opposed any attempt by the council to punish Burma for nearly two decades of continued intransigence. They have since ameliorated their positions but are no nearer uniting with the other members to deliver a stronger message.

Obviously the junta leaders are now playing hide and seek, testing the international community's determination and the sustainability of Asean positions against them, as witness their attempt to create havoc along the Thai border following Thailand's growing assertiveness by attacking minority groups so as to scarce the Thai security forces. This pattern of diplomatic brinksmanship has worked for the junta all along. If the international community, particularly the council, remains divided, pariah states can continue to exploit it. The new sanctions against North Korea are a case in point.

Burma has delayed the trial of Suu Kyi for an additional two weeks. Of course, the junta is watching closely how the international community reacts to the ongoing court case and to her plight. International pressure has increased by the day. Major world leaders have spoken in support of her and called for her release. Asean has been firm. Burma's continued attack on Thailand as the Asean chair is aimed at undermining its position as such. It is to be hoped that Asean positions will be bolstered by increasing support from the international community.

The North Koreans and the Burmese have suffered tremendously because of their leaders. Both countries have spent heavily on arms and left their citizens starving in the expectation of foreign assistance. The Burmese have risen several times since 1988 demanding democratic change and been violently put down. This could happen again due to economic hardship and rising fuel prices. The North Koreans have yet to do this.

It is pivotal that when the council puts its mind to fighting pariah states such as North Korea and Burma it is intelligent and united, otherwise it will be manipulated and exploited, especially when there are cracks in its ranks. It backed Friday's tough sanctions against North Korea; it is to be hoped that in the near future it will do the same in the case of Burma.

NY Times: Op-Ed Contributor

Free Aung San Suu Kyi

Published: June 12, 2009
PARIS — “Freedom from fear.” These words, uttered by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in 1990, resound more than ever as a call for help at a time when the Burmese junta has initiated proceedings against her that are as absurd as they are unjustified. We are not fooled: This is a poor pretext to prevent her from participating in the upcoming elections.

“Freedom from fear.” How can one not cry out for freedom for this great lady, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1991? I met her in Yangon at the end of 2002, just a few months before her endless enforced isolation began. Since her arrest on Thursday, May 14, the thoughts of all those who admire and support her are with the “Lady of Yangon,” a woman full of dignity and finesse, energy and calm, intelligence and compassion.

“Freedom from fear.” It was the living incarnation of these few words who appeared before an audience both mesmerized and awed by this living legend. Her every word was heard by a silent, respectful public, a public that did not dare to sit while she spoke. Simple, yet firm words. Innocent words. Calm and fearless words.

For over 20 years, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has been struggling in silence and with unshakeable courage, supported by the conviction that “it is not power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it, and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” For over 20 years, her refusal of fear accompanies us, mobilizes us, forces us to defend her against a despicable regime.

How can one accept that a woman, whom some call the Gandhi of Burma, could be considered a criminal so dangerous that she must be kept away from all contact with the rest of humanity? For six years, this incredibly determined woman has been under house arrest. She lives in the sole company of two companions in misfortune. Six years of an enforced isolation, even crueler than prison. Six years with no outside contact other than sporadic medical visits, before the arrest of her doctor; or, even more rarely, a meeting with a diplomat.

Six years of isolation, but in reality 19 years of deprivation of freedom. Since the 1990 elections, which saw the victory of the opposition and which should have made her the leader of her country, the junta has deprived the Burmese people of their rights. Freedom has fled this country. For 19 years, the “Lady of Yangon” has known only brief moments of freedom. Her husband died before she could see him again.

This inhumane isolation could have ended on May 27, with the official end of her house arrest, if new proceedings had not been initiated against her under false pretenses. Once again, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi is being persecuted, even though her health is deteriorating and she risks being sentenced to five years of imprisonment, which she may not survive.

The Burmese regime cannot continue to turn a deaf ear to the appeals from all over Europe, America and Asia calling for her release and that of other political prisoners. It cannot ignore indefinitely the demand made with a single voice by the Asia-Europe Ministerial Meeting on May 26 in Hanoi, or the call for dialogue in Myanmar launched a few days earlier, in an unprecedented gesture, by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — an organization of which Myanmar is a member.

I reiterate forcefully that the release of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi is a matter of urgency, as Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Nicolas Sarkozy strongly reminded us at their joint press conference on Thursday. Only dialogue with the opposition will bestow legitimacy on the upcoming 2010 elections.

Twenty years after the elections that saw the victory of the National League for Democracy, these elections are vital for the future of this martyred country. Myanmar can no longer remain isolated from the rest of the world. On the contrary, it must rejoin the rest of the world, and the international community is ready to help.

As a start, the military junta should admit that no solution can be found without including Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi in the electoral process. Senior General Than Shwe must understand that she is his best asset to guarantee the unity, the stability and finally the prosperity of the country, and that she is not a threat to his power. If the generals were to listen to the Burmese people, they would in turn free themselves from the fear that their people instill in them.

Bernard Kouchner is the minister of foreign and European affairs of France.
NEWSWEEK: ‘The Lady’ And The Tramp
The Missouri misfit who helped bring down Burma's future.
Tony Dokoupil
From the magazine issue dated Jun 22, 2009
For years, John Yettaw had experienced visions that warned him of events to come. Sometimes the Missouri resident ignored them and came to regret it. This time, though, he intended to act. In early 2009, the 53-year-old told friends and family that he had seen himself as a man sent by God to protect the life of a beloved foreign leader. He arranged for his kids to stay with a friend, borrowed money to buy a plane ticket and printed new business cards, as if launching a new life. He seemed calm at first, spending hours at the local Hardee's, where he used the free Wi-Fi to download music—Gladys Knight, Michael Bublé—and Mormon sermons from Salt Lake City. But as his flight date approached, he also showed signs of nervousness. He broke down on the shoulder of his best friend, and didn't sleep at all on his last night at home.

Sometime after 3 a.m. on April 15, he woke his son Brian, 17, and his three younger children for a family prayer, and piled them into a minivan for the hourlong drive to the airport. Unlike the backpack tour Yettaw had taken through Asia late last year, this trip would propel him into the heart of Burma's repressive regime and an ongoing crackdown on dissidents that has drawn condemnation from Barack Obama and United Nations Secretary--General Ban Ki-moon, among others. On the 20th, he flew to Bangkok, where he spent a week waiting for his Burmese visa and sending whimsical e-mails home, including a final cheerful message: "Pray. Study peace. Live calmness. Kindness toward everyone. Love and pray."

The next word the family got regarding Yettaw came in a 5 a.m. phone call from the consulate at the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon. He had been arrested just past dawn on May 6, seized as he kicked through the soupy brown waters of Inya Lake, a man-made reservoir some four miles from his hotel. He had made an unauthorized and uninvited two-day visit to the weathered colonial-style home of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Prize–winning leader of Burma's pro-democracy movement. Suu Kyi says that she asked Yettaw to leave, but relented when he complained of hunger and exhaustion. "The Lady," as locals call her, trounced opponents in the country's last open election in 1990, but the junta refused to recognize the results, and has kept her under arrest for 13 of the past 19 years for trying to unseat the regime. She was due to be released on May 27, ahead of next year's landmark national elections—the first in two decades. But now Suu Kyi, the Oxford-educated daughter of Burmese revolutionary Aung San, faces five more years for violating the terms of her imprisonment and breaking the country's law forbidding unregistered guests from staying overnight.

Yettaw, too, is on trial for charges including "illegal swimming" and breaching security laws; judging from the line of questioning in court, Burmese authorities suspect he intended to help Suu Kyi escape. At the start of the legal proceedings last month, they presented two black chadors, two long skirts, three pairs of sunglasses, six colored pencils, flares, flashlights and a pair of pliers as evidence of a getaway plot. Yettaw was also carrying empty jugs he used for buoyancy, and a camera wrapped in plastic with a picture of the improvised flippers he used for the mile-long swim. Since his arrest, he has been held in Insein (pronounced "insane") Prison. If convicted, he faces as many as five years behind bars—perhaps more if he is found guilty of trying to spring Suu Kyi. Both he and his host (Suu Kyi's lawyer says, "This is a political case, not a criminal one") have pleaded not guilty. "He had no criminal intent," Yettaw's lawyer, Khin Maung Oo, told newsweek, adding that the only charge he should face is "lurking house-trespass," a lesser crime on the books in Burma. "He has no relationship with anything political. His only mission was to save her."

A troubled dreamer who lives down two miles of gravel road in Missouri's backwoods and didn't have a passport until last spring, Yettaw is an unlikely protagonist on the international political stage. Why he made his move, and who, if anyone, encouraged it are questions clouded by conspiracy theories and confounding reports about the man and his motives. The junta believes that antigovernment activists used Yettaw to embarrass its leaders, while Suu Kyi's supporters say that the government used the quixotic American as a pretense for keeping their best-known critic under house arrest rather than risk igniting the opposition ahead of the 2010 elections.

Yettaw's friends and family tell a different story, describing a well-intentioned and highly spiritual person whose struggles with alcoholism and mental illness may have pushed him into history's path. "I don't think he's well," says Yvonne Yettaw, the third of his four wives—echoing the sentiments of other loved ones who believe that he may suffer from untreated bipolar and posttraumatic stress disorders. The only problem is neither Yvonne nor anybody else seems to fully understand the often secretive father of seven. As a result, they offer contradictory, incomplete and occasionally fantastical ideas about what Yettaw was up to.

Betty, Yettaw's fourth and current wife, believes he was compelled by God, but also wanted to interview Suu Kyi for a book he is writing about how people recover from trauma. ("If they let her go, he'd never get to see her," Betty says.) Ex-wife Yvonne says the Burma trip was about business: her ex-husband and Suu Kyi, she heard incorrectly, had coauthored a book together. And a close friend of Yettaw's—who requested anonymity owing to the sensitivity of the family's situation—says that John uncovered Burmese (and Chinese) state secrets that compelled him to act. "If they knew, they'd kill him," the friend says ominously. Brian and Carley, his 20-year-old daughter, say their father was going to warn Suu Kyi that her life was in danger following a tip-off from God—an account that roughly matches Yettaw's testimony that "terrorists" were going to assassinate her and blame the government.

The facts of Yettaw's life are also murky, even to his family. After years of his erratic behavior and unsatisfying explanations, they have come to accept him the way he is—bighearted but unsteady. This is what they've been told (although aside from Yettaw's birthplace and his military records, little can be independently verified): he and a twin sister were born in a Detroit housing project in 1955—the youngest of five siblings and the only ones to survive into adulthood (an older sister died in a swimming accident, a brother committed suicide in a mental hospital and another sister was born with severe handicaps and died in an institution). As a 7- or 8-year-old, he has told family, he was molested by a volunteer "big brother" after his father left home, before his mother's drinking cost her custody. Sent to live with relatives in California, Yettaw ran away from home at 16 and lived in his car until he was old enough to join the Army in 1973. His family believes that Yettaw did a combat stint somewhere in Asia during the Vietnam War; he told them that his time there brought on bouts of PTSD. The military's National Personnel Records Center, however, says that he spent 10 months in Germany before being discharged in 1974 after little more than a year of service.

Back in the United States, an unplanned pregnancy led to a quickie marriage at 20, a divorce two years later and a decade of drinking, according to Yvonne. Yettaw married again in his mid-20s, only to divorce seven years later. He met Yvonne, the mother of six of his seven children, at a church singles event shortly after his conversion to Mormonism in his early 30s. Yettaw liked the church's belief in conversions for the dead because he wanted to reunite with his whole family in the afterlife, she says. Around the same time, he experienced the first in a series of visions: a dream that his father, whom Yettaw had not heard from since John was 2, was in Falcon, Mo. Remarkably, he was in fact living in Falcon, and John soon moved Yvonne and his children nearby. Things looked up for a while. But over the next few years, personal tragedies pulled Yettaw's life in strange new directions, and ultimately toward Burma.

After a house fire and a messy divorce from Yvonne, Yettaw found himself living in a trailer on his property, where a veritable Noah's Ark of trash began to accumulate on the lawn: two broken-down cars, two derelict trucks, two rusted satellite dishes and a pair of portable basketball hoops that still stand in the tall, tick-infested grass. Debt began to snowball, as Yettaw pursued increasingly impractical dreams. He started driving a USA Tours bus in part to ferry soldiers from their homes to nearby Fort Leonard Wood, began work on a 6,000-square-foot turreted home and started putting up drifters in a local hotel.

A darker side also emerged. He put his thumb through a man's eye during a fight in a bar parking lot, say Brian and Yvonne, and, according to police records, spat in the face of a woman who accused him of taking her car. (Although no charges were filed, Yettaw admitted to the spitting, and the woman won a restraining order against him.) In 1997 he graduated cum laude from Drury University with a triple major in psychology, criminal justice and biology, only to be forced from a doctoral program at the Springfield, Mo.–based Forest Institute's School of Professional Psychology in 2007. According to family, he was "blacklisted" for exploding at a professor during a field trip to an area mental hospital. (Forest officials declined to comment, citing privacy regulations.) Determined to get back on track, he was set to speak with school officials at the institute on the very day a far worse crisis engulfed the family.

Before dawn on Aug. 2, 2007, 17-year-old Clint Yettaw was speeding on his Yamaha 650—a bike his father got him for his birthday the previous summer. Clint hit a deer at such a fatal velocity, according to police, that he split the animal in two. Yettaw blamed himself for failing to act on a premonition of Clint's death a few weeks earlier. He buried his son in the front yard, in a plain grave surrounded by cinder blocks. It was a pivotal event for Yettaw, who soon decided he needed a break. "He was like, 'Get me away from here'," says Betty.

In May 2008, he and Brian headed to Asia for a six-month tour, where Yettaw's fascination with Suu Kyi began. After Brian returned to school in early September, Yettaw headed to Mae Sot, a relaxed and slightly untidy Thai town known for drugs, human trafficking and other shady activities. Located on the Moei River across from the Burmese town of Myawaddy, Mae Sot is filled with agents of the Burmese military who mix in with the general population. "There's all kinds of intrigue going on," says Aung Zaw, editor of The Irrawaddy, an expatriate Burmese magazine published in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand.

Yettaw knocked around town for a few weeks, taking a second-floor room in a cheap hotel. He also picked up a motorcycle and a Thai companion, according to the hotel owner, who ate with his Missouri guest almost every day. It was then—late September through early November 2008—that Yettaw began to get political, says the owner. He "talked about Aung San Suu Kyi and said Myanmar [the name the junta gave Burma] would never be a true democracy without her. He said he really needed to do something to better bring the world's attention to The Lady and Myanmar." Yettaw was making the rounds of a few NGOs in Thailand, trying unsuccessfully to get them to accept him as a kind of adjunct staff member, according to a relief worker who, like others interviewed for this story, requested anonymity out of fear of government retaliation. Another relief worker described Yettaw as "delusional," "unstable" and "hyperactive." "He's a nice person, well intentioned; he's not going to hurt you," the person says, but "he was saying, 'God told me this; God told me that'." It's hard to know for sure what happened next. It's possible that Yettaw acted alone, or else took an innocent conversation to be something more. But some time in October, he told the hotel owner about another dream, a vision of himself as a champion of the downtrodden. Then he disappeared, leaving behind an unpaid bill. He resurfaced in Bangkok on Oct. 27 to collect a Burmese visa, government records show, and flew to Rangoon on Nov. 7.

Three weeks later, on Nov. 30, according to court testimony, he made the first of his two attempts to reach Suu Kyi's house by swimming across the lake, but was turned away by her two on-site companions. At home in Missouri the next month, he told family that he had been captured at gunpoint on his way back from her house, but was released after authorities bought his story about having been fishing. (Burmese authorities have apparently not raised this point at the trial, and would not comment further.) Upset that he had been so close to Suu Kyi without having met her, he began mulling a second trip almost immediately.

With Suu Kyi now on trial, spray-painted messages of sympathy have popped up on walls around Rangoon. Behind closed doors there are rumblings of support for the woman who remains a symbol of hope to the 47 million people of Burma, and a million Burmese refugees in exile. But few of her supporters have spoken out publicly about her, perhaps mindful of the regime's brutal means of quelling protest.

The locals are less reticent about Yettaw. To some, he's a heroic idealist; to others, he's a dangerous imbecile who has jeopardized Suu Kyi's freedom and the possibility of democracy. Htay Aung, a former Burmese political prisoner in exile in Thailand, says Yettaw made "the complications more complicated. Now we don't know what's going to happen to Burma."

Verdicts are expected later this month. Yettaw, for his part, "is prepared for any punishment they impose on him," according to his lawyer. In prison, with two Burmese cellmates, he is refusing food in an effort to give himself another vision. He often cries at the thought of "suffering, war and cruelty" in the world. But at the same time, the lawyer says, he is "very happy." "He knows very well that Suu Kyi is in trouble. But that is for the time being. Instead of losing her life, he saved her—this is what he thinks."

Back home in Missouri, the Yettaw family doesn't know what's going to happen to him, either. The details coming out in court puzzle his loved ones, who say Yettaw's previous aquatic adventures had been limited to a front-yard wading pool. "It's getting pretty bizarre," says Betty of the bundle of items her husband allegedly took with him across the lake. "That doesn't sound like Dad," Brian adds. Although Betty says she's "very worried" because "these guys play hardball," there is little that anyone in the family can do, other than monitor the case's progress via media reports and updates from American diplomatic staff in the region.

They are doing their best to get on with life. Later this month the three youngest children plan to fly to California to spend the summer with their mother, Yvonne, while Carley and Brian stay in Missouri, fielding text messages and questions from curious friends: "OMG, I want details" and "Crazy. What's up with your dad?"

"It's complicated," they answer.

With Lennox Samuels in Thailand and F. De Burgo-Naughton in Burma


Choosing the Right Battle Strategy
By MIN ZIN Saturday, June 13, 2009

By picking the right battle strategy, David was able to strike down Goliath with a slingshot and use his powerful sword to slay the giant. The rule of thumb is to choose fighting strength against weakness, and not strength against strength.

The regime's weakness lies on its international flank, especially its regional neighbors. The junta is also sensitive to the opinions of military officers and rank and file. These are the targets the Lady must hit repeatedly and relentlessly.

Aung San Suu Kyi believes that political integrity (i.e. "plain honesty in politics") is one of the most important virtues. She and many others regard the political integrity she upholds persistently as her strength. Perfect armor!

However, she has to comprehend the strength of her captors, too. The Lady cannot pick or prolong the battle within the junta's institutions, including the legal system, which is one of the most corrupted instruments serving the perpetuation of the regime.

As a serial liar and rule-breaker, the junta knows well how to manipulate its institutions against Suu Kyi and other opponents. Force and fraud are their strength.

This strength must be continuously exposed internationally as well as to a domestic public, especially to the military rank and file. But it might not be the battle front the Lady wants to open.

Confronting the strength of the regime straight on, as the opposition has mostly done in past, will end up in another defeat. The asymmetrical power relationship is evidential.

Suu Kyi’s trial is another test of the opposition's strategic caliber. In fact, the trial is widely believed to be a sham. The verdict has already been reached in Snr-Gen Than Shwe's mind.

Although Suu Kyi’s latest, six-year term of house arrest ended in May, the regime's supremo is still afraid of freeing her to the embrace of her supporters and the public at large.

The 63-year-old Nobel laureate faces a maximum prison sentence of five years. She could be condemned to prison or sent home for a further term of house arrest.

Whatever the terms of her incarceration, it is clear that the regime’s aim is to confine her until it has secured victory in the 2010 general election.

This is a political battle ground. That's why the trial has drawn international condemnation, including from the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (Asean). The group warned the regime that "the honor and credibility of the Government of the Union of Myanmar are at stake".

Even Goh Chok Tong, a staunch ally of the regime and a former prime minister of Singapore, told Than Shwe during talks in Naypyidaw earlier this month that the trial has an international dimension.

Thus, the Lady must see the trial as a political battle. Instead of prolonging the trial, she must let the sham process get done and receive the prison sentence. That will intensify political battles in the international arena, including the UN Security Council and regional players.

The regime will no doubt face domestic challenges, too. The opposition National League for Democracy must also lead the political battle, instead of waiting for the result of the show trial.

If Suu Kyi allows the trial to drag on, she will give the regime a chance to project the impression of openness and due legal process. In fact, the junta has already derived advantage from Suu Kyi's appeal for four defense witnesses to be heard.

The lower District Court earlier disqualified all but one defense witness, but the Rangoon Divisional Court later ruled that a second witness could give testimony. With this concession, the junta might be quite satisfied in projecting the impression of a fair and independent legal process, though that will not have any effect on its final script.

More importantly, the protraction of the trial could reduce interest in the international media, as well as diplomatic pressures. Momentum always amasses two important sources of capital, which strategically-minded politicians should not squander—good timing and political good will.

That is why the court’s decision on Friday to postpone the trial until June 26 in order to hear the testimony of a Suu Kyi’s defense witness is not a good sign. In fact, Suu Kyi's lawyers requested the further adjournment since the defense witness has to come to court from southern Shan State, in the northeastern part of Burma.

Suu Kyi instructed her lawyers to continue the appeals process to allow more defense witnesses to be heard in the case as she wants "to see it through to the end as the ruling is legally wrong."

If the High Court upholds the lower courts' decision, the special court in Insein Prison may set a date sometime in July in which to deliver the verdict. The regime could still delay the verdict in order to ride out international pressure. But the cause of any delay should not rest with the Lady.

If Suu Kyi and the NLD fail to distinguish between a political battle and a legal fight, and unless they focus more on the former, they will lose the momentum. Engaging in a lengthy legal battle will not yield any political outcome except the exhaustion of strategic capital.

In a clever move, Suu Kyi told diplomats who attended one session of her trial: "There could be many opportunities for national reconciliation if all parties so wished," according to a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore, whose ambassador was among those who met her on May 20.

The statement said that she also "expressed the view that it was not too late for something good to come out of this unfortunate incident," referring to her trial. "She did not wish to use the intrusion into her home as a way to get at the Burma authorities," read the statement.

The statement represented a political offensive and displayed her strength, something the NLD should exploit. The NLD party should, for instance, have released an official statement supporting Goh's recent comments and Asean's "grave concern," and citing Suu Kyi's words to demonstrate the opposition's readiness for national reconciliation.

The goal must be to amass international and domestic public support and materialize it in the UN Security Council, Asean, China, and on the streets of Burma.

Suu Kyi can, of course, continue her legal battle, even after she is sentenced. But the focus must be to reap political advantage. The momentum should not be diminished.

The political battle must be renewed and the regime’s Achilles' heel must be located and attacked.

Min Zin is a Burmese journalist in exile and a teaching fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Journalism.

Dear All,

No news from Burma is a good news. The people's suffering in Burma has been so much for so long. It will continue to be that way unless the international community act decisively. In fact, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is now on the verge of being punished even harsher than ever. However, amid this situation, there are anew efforts to pressure the regime more decisively --- to get UN Security Council to act:

1. A recent report by Five of the world’s leading international jurists from the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, calls for the UN Security Council to act on Burma.
2. In his NY Time article last Wednesday, May 27 (The anniversary of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's 1990 election victory), Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar from 2000 to 2008 also urged to end Burma's System of Impunity.
3. A group of US representatives in the Congress are circulating a letter to president Obama to seek for a Commission of Inquiry on Burma by UNSC.

Now, these representatives needs our help to get our own representatives to join in and sign on to the letter. You can help so that a good news would come out of Burma soon. So, please call your representatives to seize this important moment of opportunity and help free Burma by joining in. Burma really needs you all again and please act now!

Here are the helpful instructions on how to call the offices in California: And the general instruction can be found here:

Please also find below the related letter, news articles and the list of California representatives.

Nyunt Than

1. Letter to President Barack Obama by A group of representatives
2. New report from Harvard Law School
NY Time article by Paulo Sergio Pinheiro
List of representatives and staff members in California

1. Letter to President Barack Obama by a group of representatives

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

Successive U.S. administrations, with overwhelming bi-partisan support from Congress, have shown their support for Burmese peoples’ aspiration to live in a democratic society free from their military dictatorship.  Unfortunately, despite U.S. efforts as well as decades of peaceful attempts by successive United Nations Special Envoys and Rapporteurs to convince the Burmese military regime to end its atrocities and seek a peaceful transition to democracy, peace, democracy and stability elude Burma.

Therefore, we urge you to take the lead in establishing a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Commission of Inquiry into the Burmese military regime’s crimes against humanity and war crimes against its civilian population.  Similar cases in Rwanda, Yugoslavia, and Darfur have all led to Commissions of Inquiry and each previous case had UN Special Envoys and Special Rapporteurs assigned to seeking peaceful solutions to their respective countries international humanitarian crises.  Still though, the UNSC took the necessary step and established a Commission of Inquiry to investigate and provide justice and accountability for the war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed with impunity by state agents.  By elevating the cause of Burma to the UNSC, the United States is putting Burma’s supporters on notice that we will not support the status quo while millions of people languish.

The United Nations has passed over 30 resolutions acknowledging and decrying the Burmese military regime’s crimes and blatant system of impunity. All the while, Burma’s military regime has carried out a scorched-earth campaign against the country’s ethnic minority civilian population, destroying over 3,300 villages, using systematic rape as a weapon of war, pressing the Burmese people into modern-day slave labor, killing innocent civilians, and forcing at least one million people to flee their homes as refugees and internally displaced.   The regime has also conscripted tens of thousands of child soldiers, and imprisoned and tortured those who dare speak out in support of freedom and democracy.

Compounding the brutality of the regime’s war crimes and crimes against humanity is their flagrant system of impunity, in which perpetrators go free, but victims fear retribution if they seek accountability and justice.  While the “slow burn” nature of the military regime’s grave crimes has kept the spotlight away from these atrocities, it makes them no less dire.  In fact, it makes it ever more urgent that we call upon the UNSC to hold the Burmese military regime to account for their war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Furthermore, the regime’s constitution, on which it predicates its upcoming elections in 2010, contains an amnesty provision that exempts all members of the military regime from prosecution.  The amnesty provision is a blatant attempt to legitimize the structured and systematic violence in the country for all junta inflicted crimes.  In addition to the amnesty provision, the constitution also removes any rights for civil redress for victims of crimes committed by the military and police and blocks access to justice in civilian courts thus effectively denying justice to the regime’s victims.

The world must not sit by and allow Burma’s regime to commit mass atrocities with impunity.  We urge you to urgently seek support at the UNSC for a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the Burmese regime’s war crimes, crimes against humanity and system of impunity.   The regime must be held accountable, on behalf of the millions of people of Burma who have no other course for redress.


Joe Crowley (D-NY); Don Manzullo (R-IL); Rush Holt (D-NJ); Peter King (R-NY); Anna Eshoo (D-CA); Madeline Bordallo (D-Guam); Carolyn Maloney (D-NY); Joseph Pitts (R-PA); Brad Sherman (D-CA); Michael Michaud (D-ME); Jim Moran (D-VA); Frank Wolf (R-VA); Mark Kirk (IL)
Brian Bilbray (R-CA); David Price (D-NC)


End Burma’s System of Impunity

Published: May 27, 2009
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL — The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has spent 13 years under house arrest in Myanmar. This week, the Burmese junta is likely to extend her detention for up to five years under the trumped-up charge of allowing a visitor into her compound.

During eight years as United Nations Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, I repeatedly called on the Burmese junta to release Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma’s 2,100 other political prisoners, to no avail. It is imperative that she be released immediately for the country’s process of reconciliation to move forward.

But while Suu Kyi has deservedly received a great deal of international attention over the past two decades, Myanmar’s ethnic minorities — more than one-third of the population — have suffered without international outcry. For Myanmar’s process of national reconciliation to be successful, the plight of the minorities must also be addressed.

Over the past 15 years, the Burmese Army has destroyed over 3,300 villages in a systematic and widespread campaign to subjugate ethnic groups. U.N. reports indicate that Burmese soldiers have frequently recruited child soldiers, used civilians as minesweepers and forced thousands of villagers into slave labor.

An official policy of impunity has empowered soldiers to rape and pillage. According to one account, in December 2008 a Burmese soldier marched into an ethnic Karen village in eastern Myanmar and abducted, raped and killed a 7-year old girl. Authorities refused to arrest the soldier; instead, officers threatened the parents with punishment if they did not accept a cash bribe to keep quiet.

In 2002, I received a report about 625 women who were systematically raped in Myanmar ’s Shan State over a five-year period. There was not a single account of successful prosecution.

I repeatedly documented the military’s many abuses in reports to the U.N. General Assembly and the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. My work is only one example of U.N. efforts in Myanmar — since 1990, U.N. representatives have visited the country 37 times in an attempt to facilitate dialogue and promote human rights.

They have exhausted all domestic and diplomatic remedies without achieving human rights protection and national reconciliation in Myanmar. And while the U.N. General Assembly and the U.N. Human Rights Council have passed over 35 resolutions regarding Myanmar, the U.N. Security Council has yet to pass a single one. The United Nations will not be successful until the Security Council acts to directly address our stagnant efforts.

It is clear that the attacks in Myanmar will continue. It is equally evident that the country’s domestic legal system will not punish those perpetrating crimes against ethnic minorities.

It is time for the United Nations to take the next logical step: The Security Council must establish a commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity and impunity in Myanmar. The Security Council took similar steps with regard to Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. The situation in Myanmar is equally as critical.

Creating a commission of inquiry will accomplish three important goals:

First, it will make the junta accountable for its crimes with a potential indictment by the International Criminal Court. Second, it will address the widespread culture of impunity in Burma. Third, it has the potential to deter future crimes against humanity in Myanmar.

For two decades, ethnic minorities in Myanmar have suffered while our diplomatic efforts failed to bear fruit. The time has come for the Security Council to act.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro was the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar from 2000 to 2008.

Learn how to ask your member of Congress to sign this letter, click here.

May XX, 2009

World’s Leading Jurists Call for Investigation into Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes in Burma

New report from Harvard Law School finds that UN documents on Burma provide grounds for investigation into international crimes; calls for more concerted UN action on Burma

Cambridge, MA - Five of the world’s leading international jurists have commissioned a report from the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, calling for the UN Security Council to act on more than fifteen years of condemnation from other UN bodies on human rights abuses in Burma. The Harvard report, Crimes in Burma, comes in the wake of renewed international attention on Burma, with the continued persecution of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi. The report concludes with a call for the UN Security Council to establish a Commission of Inquiry into crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma.

The Harvard report is based on an analysis of scores of UN documents – including UN General Assembly and Commission on Human Rights resolutions, as well as reports from several different Special Rapporteurs. These indicate that human rights abuses in Burma are widespread, systematic, and part of state policy – legal terms that justify further investigation and strongly suggest Burma’s military regime may be committing crimes against humanity and war crimes prosecutable under international law. Major abuses cited by the United Nations include forced displacement of over 3,000 villages in eastern Burma, and widespread and systematic sexual violence, torture, and summary execution of innocent civilians.

Yet, despite such documentation from multiple UN organs, the UN Security Council has not moved to investigate potential crimes against humanity or war crimes in Burma, as it has in other areas of the world, including Darfur and Rwanda.

“Over and over again, UN resolutions and Special Rapporteurs have spoken out about the abuses that have been reported to them in Burma. The UN Security Council, however, has not moved the process forward as it should and has in similar situations such as those in the former Yugoslavia and Darfur,” the jurists write in the report’s preface. “In the cases of Yugoslavia and Darfur, once aware of the severity of the problem, the UN Security Council established a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the gravity of the violations further. With Burma, there has been no such action from the UN Security Council despite being similarly aware of the widespread and systematic nature of the violations.”

The five jurists who commissioned the report, from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South Africa, are Judge Richard Goldstone (South Africa), Judge Patricia Wald (United States), Judge Pedro Nikken (Venezuela), Judge Ganzorig Gombosuren (Mongolia), and Sir Geoffrey Nice (United Kingdom). Among other accomplishments, Judge Goldstone served on South Africa’s Constitutional Court and was the first prosecutor at both the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. Judge Wald served as Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and as a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Judge Nikken served as President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Judge Gombosuren served as a Supreme Court Justice in Mongolia, and Sir Nice was the deputy prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the principal prosecution trial attorney in the case against Slobodan Milosevic in the Hague.

Each of the five jurists has dealt directly with severe human rights abuses in the international system, and all five call for the UN Security Council to establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate and report on crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma.

The Harvard report specifically examines four international human rights violations documented by UN bodies over the past fifteen years: sexual violence, forced displacement, torture, and extrajudicial killings. The report focuses on UN documents since 2002, to allow examination of the most up-to-date UN material, although UN reports dating back to 1992 have consistently condemned a wide-range of violations in Burma.

Tyler Giannini, the Clinical Director of the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School and one of the report’s authors, said its findings clearly demonstrate that a Commission of Inquiry on Burma should proceed.

“The UN Security Council has taken action regarding Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Sudan when it identified information strongly suggesting the existence of crimes against humanity and war crimes,” said Giannini. “As our research shows, UN documents clearly and authoritatively suggest that the human rights abuses occurring in Burma are not isolated incidents – they are potential crimes against humanity and war crimes. Failure by the UN Security Council to take action and investigate these crimes could mean that violations of international criminal law will go unchecked.”

To view a copy of Crimes in Burma, click here.

For media interviews in the United States, please contact Michael Jones at 617-495-9214 or, or Julianne Stevenson at 617-682-5519 or For media interviews in Thailand, please contact Tyler Giannini at +66 89 020 6646 or


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UN Security Council Urges Burma to Release All Political Prisoners
By Margaret Besheer
The United Nations
22 May 2009

UN Security Council, (file photo)
UN Security Council (file photo)
The U.N. Security Council has called for the release of all political prisoners in Burma, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and expressed its concern over her recent trial.  

In a unanimous statement, the 15-council members expressed their concern about the "political impact" of the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi charging her with violating the terms of her house arrest.

The council also repeated its call for the release of all political prisoners in Burma - which is also known as Myanmar. The council also called on Burma's military regime to create the necessary conditions for a genuine dialogue with all concerned parties and ethnic groups to achieve an inclusive national reconciliation.

John Sawers, the United Kingdom's Ambassador to the UN, (File)
John Sawers, the United Kingdom's Ambassador to the UN (File)
British Ambassador John Sawers said it is "inconceivable" that Aung San Suu Kyi's trial and imprisonment could in anyway contribute to achieving a genuine national reconciliation.

"It is inconceivable that the trial and imprisonment of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi could in anyway contribute to that. She is the most prominent of the opposition leaders in Myanmar and she heads the party which won the only credible elections in recent memory in Myanmar, and the regime needs to come to terms with that. They are failing to do so," he said.

He said the council's unanimous call for the release of all political prisoners is very pointed, especially when the most prominent of all those prisoners - Aung San Suu Kyi - is on trial on charges which he said "stand no credibility."

U.S. envoy Rosemary DiCarlo said the council needed to speak with one voice on this issue and it did, saying countries which do not normally want to comment on this issue did. Russia and China are two prominent council members that are close to Burma's leadership and often avoid criticizing it.

An anti-Burmese government protester holds up posters of detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest to demand her release in front of the U.N. office in Bangkok, Thailand, 22 May 2009
An anti-Burmese government protester holds up posters of detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest to demand her release in front of the U.N. office in Bangkok, Thailand, 22 May 2009
Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has pleaded not guilty to charges that she violated the terms of her house arrest.  

The charges stem from an incident earlier this month in which an American man swam to her lakeside residence and stayed there for two days. Her lawyers say she asked him to leave, but that he was too exhausted and ill to swim back.

Critics say Burma's military leaders want to keep the pro-democracy leader in detention and away from next year's elections.  

The Nobel Prize laureate has been under house arrest for 13 of the past 19 years. With these new charges she could face another five-year detention term.  



Worldfocus News on Burma (skip to 10 min 40 seconds):

1. U.N.'s Ban "gravely concerned" for Myanmar's Suu Kyi
2. Clinton 'deeply troubled' by Aung San Suu Kyi charges

3. Myanmar Junta Charges Democracy Leader
4. Myanmar democracy activist charged by junta

Obama extends Myanmar sanctions

1 day ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) — President Barack Obama on Friday formally extended US sanctions against Myanmar, keeping up pressure on the junta at the height of its new showdown with detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

"I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency with respect to Burma and maintain in force the sanctions against Burma to respond to this threat," Obama said in a message to Congress.

The move, which had been previewed last month by US officials and was merely a formality, comes despite an official US review of policy on Myanmar, also known as Burma.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that she wants to find a "better way" to sway Myanmar's military leaders.

Foreign ministers of the European Union last month also extended their sanctions against Myanmar for another year, but said they were ready to ease them and hold talks if there was democratic progress.

The junta has kept Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for nearly 20 years. The Nobel peace laureate led her party to victory in 1990 but the junta never allowed the election to stand.

Myanmar was under intense international pressure Friday to free Aung San Suu Kyi after she was imprisoned ahead of a new trial next week for breaching the terms of her house arrest.

The United States and the United Nations led calls for the immediate release of the 63-year-old, whose trial is due to start in jail on Monday.

The junta took Aung San Suu Kyi from her home on Thursday to Yangon's notorious Insein prison, where she was charged over a bizarre incident in which an American man swam to her lakeside residence.

U.N.'s Ban "gravely concerned" for Myanmar's Suu Kyi

Thu May 14, 2009 6:48pm BST

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed "grave concern" on Thursday over reports that Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was charged with violating her house arrest and could face new jail time.

"The Secretary-General is gravely concerned about the news that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been moved to the Insein Prison to face criminal charges," U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe told reporters.

She said Ban believes Suu Kyi "is an essential partner for dialogue in Myanmar's national reconciliation and calls on the government not to take any further action that could undermine this important process."

Ban is convinced that Suu Kyi and all others in the country formerly known as Burma "who have a contribution to make to the future of their country" should be free to do so, Okabe said.

Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) said she faces up to five years in jail after an American intruder sneaked into her lakeside home.

Opposition activists denounced her trial, set to begin on Monday, as a ploy by the country's junta to keep Suu Kyi, 63, sidelined ahead of elections in 2010.

The NLD, which won a landslide election victory in 1990 only to be denied power by the military, "strongly condemned" the new charges two weeks before her latest six-year detention is due to expire on May 27.

The Nobel Peace laureate has spent 13 of the past 19 years in detention, most of it held virtually incommunicado at her home, her telephone line cut, mail intercepted and visitors restricted.

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Simon Gardner)

Clinton 'deeply troubled' by Aung San Suu Kyi charges

16 hours ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday she was "deeply troubled" by new charges brought by Myanmar's military junta against pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

Clinton joined a growing chorus of international condemnation after the junta charged the pro-democracy icon with breaching the terms of her house arrest over a bizarre incident in which a US man swam to her lakeside house.

"I am deeply troubled by the Burmese government's decision to charge Aung San Suu Kyi for a baseless crime," she told reporters during a media briefing with Malaysia's foreign minister Datuk Anifah bin Haji Aman.

"We oppose the regime's efforts to use this incident as a pretext to place further unjustified restrictions on her," Clinton said, calling for authorities to release Aung San Suu Kyi "immediately and unconditionally."

She added she wanted to raise the issue with countries like China, which is believed to have strong influence over the military junta.

She also hinted that she had discussed Aung San Suu Kyi in the context of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which member Myanmar and Malaysia are members.

"The ASEAN charter sets a very clear direction for all countries in the region to be headed," Clinton said.

ASEAN has long been wary of criticizing Myanmar but the 10-nation club has found itself embarrassed by the regime, led by the reclusive General Than Shwe.

"We are also very concerned as to what?s happening in Burma, in Myanmar, and we hope to use the ASEAN Forum to ... discuss (the issue) further," Anifah Aman said.

"And if it?s necessary, upon my arrival in Malaysia I will immediately contact the secretary general of ASEAN (Surin Pitsuwan) if it is possible to have a meeting immediately to address the issues," he added.

Aung San Suu Kyi goes on trial on Monday on the charges, which carry a jail term of up to five years and would stretch her detention past its supposed expiry date this month and through controversial elections due in 2010.

The 63-year-old would not be allowed to return home but would be held at a special house on the grounds of Insein Prison while proceedings were under way, her lawyer Kyi Win added.

Howard Berman, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, echoed the call for the release of the pro-democracy leader.

John Yettaw, who was held last week for sneaking into Suu Kyi's house and staying there for two days before he was caught, was also charged with breaking the security law and immigration conditions, officials said.

Yettaw, 53, apparently used a pair of homemade flippers to swim across a lake to her crumbling residence in an apparent show of solidarity, but Aung San Suu Kyi's main lawyer Kyi Win said they had asked him to leave.

"We have to blame him," Kyi Win said. "He is a fool."

Clinton's spokesman Ian Kelly told journalists that the authorities in Myanmar allowed a US embassy consular officer access to the courtroom for Yettaw's hearing earlier Thursday.

Myanmar Junta Charges Democracy Leader

Khin Maung Win/Associated Press

The main entrance to Insein Prison near Myanmar’s main city, Yangon, where the pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was being held.

Published: May 14, 2009

BANGKOK — Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, was charged Thursday with violating the terms of her house arrest in a move that could tighten the grip of the military junta over its chief opponent in advance of an election next year.

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Daw Aung San Suu Kyi


Her arrest grew out of a bizarre episode in which an American man swam across a lake and spent at least one night on the grounds of her home, where she has been confined for 13 of the past 19 years. She is now being held in what her lawyer described as a “residential facility” on the grounds of Insein Prison near Myanmar’s main city, Yangon, her lawyer said.

The motives of the man, identified as John William Yettaw, 53, were unclear. But he told Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi that he was a Mormon and prayed extensively while he was in her house, one of her lawyers said.

The official government newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar, said Mr. Yettaw was born in Detroit and lived in Falcon, Mo. It identified him as a clinical psychology student, and said he had been a military serviceman for two years. The Thailand-based opposition magazine Irrawaddy said he had met with Burmese exile groups in Thailand and told them he was working on a faith-based book on heroism.

Mr. Yettaw is being held by Burmese authorities and was charged Thursday with illegally entering a restricted zone, which carries a maximum penalty of five years, and breaking immigration laws, which carries a maximum one-year penalty, Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyer said.

She had not invited the man and had told him to leave, her lawyer added, but she allowed him to stay after he complained of exhaustion and cramping.

The charges were introduced only two weeks before the statutory expiration of her most recent six-year detention, and many analysts saw it as a legal ploy to allow the junta to extend her confinement.

The charge against her carries a sentence of up to five years and raises the possibility that Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, 63, who has been reported to be in fragile health, will face lengthy incarceration under much harsher conditions at Insein, where hundreds of other political prisoners are believed to be held.

“It is ridiculously obvious that they are trying to put her away from any involvement in the upcoming election,” said U Soe Aung, who represents the Bangkok-based Forum for Democracy in Burma, a coalition of exile groups from Myanmar, formerly Burma.

Western nations, including the United States, are reviewing a confrontational policy of economic sanctions and political exclusion toward the junta, which has jailed its opponents, crushed pro-democracy uprisings and clung to power through force for the past two decades.

The harsh treatment of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s most prominent opposition figure and the winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, may give pause to those who advocate more humanitarian aid and engagement with the junta, said U Aung Naing Oo, a Burmese political analyst based in Thailand.

The release of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi has been a primary demand of the United Nations and of Western nations. Her imprisonment now “would send a serious signal to the international community, especially the West, that the Burmese military is not ready to be engaged,” Mr. Aung Naing Oo said.

The junta is preparing for an election next year that would be its first multiparty poll since 1990, when Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, won an overwhelming victory but was denied power by the military, which has ruled since 1962.

The coming election, part of what the junta calls a “12-step road to democracy,” would put in place a mostly civilian government in a power structure that maintains the dominance of the military.

Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyers had been preparing to demand her release after six years of detention, “and then this chap comes swimming along,” said one of her lawyers, U Kyi Win.

The lawyer said Mr. Yettaw had swum to Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi’s house once before, last November, and had left “a little Bible” for her. Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi is a Buddhist.

She has been detained and charged with two companions, Daw Khin Khin Win and her daughter Win Ma Ma, who have lived with her since 2003. Her lawyer said that she was being held separately from the general prison population. It was unclear whether her companions were being held with her.

Mr. Kyi Win, speaking by telephone from Yangon, said Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi had not violated the conditions of her house arrest because Mr. Yettaw was an intruder, not a guest. He said Mr. Yettaw had slipped past security forces guarding the compound.

When he swam up to the house with the help of improvised floatation devices — large, empty plastic containers — Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi considered turning him in to the police.

“She was about to report it to the security guards outside,” Mr. Kyi Win said. “But he begged and said he would go away soon. She had some pity for the chap.”

U Han Thar Myint, a member of the National League for Democracy, said: “There must be some ulterior motive behind this. They think that she could disrupt the election process. They want her to be inside her own compound or prison.”

Most members of the National League for Democracy have decided not to take part in the elections, but the party has not reached an official decision, Mr. Han Thar Myint said.

However, at a recent party meeting, members took a conciliatory tone toward the government, saying it was prepared for discussions without preconditions.

A consular officer from the United States Embassy in Yangon met with Mr. Yettaw on Wednesday for half an hour in the presence of many police and intelligence officers.

“He would not go into any details about his stay in the house,” said Richard Mei, a spokesman for the embassy.

Sharon Otterman contributed reporting from New York.

Myanmar democracy activist charged by junta

Myanmar's Suu Kyi charged over US intruder Play Video AFP  – Myanmar's Suu Kyi charged over US intruder
Myanmar's Suu Kyi charged over US intruder
AFP/File – Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon. The south east Asian nation's military rulers …
Thu May 14, 6:10 pm ET

YANGON, Myanmar – Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was charged Thursday with breaking the terms of her house arrest just two weeks before she was to go free, a move seen as an attempt by the military junta to silence its chief opponent ahead of next year's election.

The charges follow a mysterious visit to her home by John William Yettaw, 53, of Falcon, Mo., who swam across a lake and sneaked into her home seeking food and a place to rest.

Suu Kyi, who was scheduled to be freed May 27 after six years of house arrest, now faces up to five years in prison if convicted of violating the terms of her detention, said lawyer Hla Myo Myint.

The trial of the Nobel Peace laureate is scheduled to start Monday at a special court at Yangon's notorious Insein Prison, where she was arraigned and then held Thursday.

"It is nothing more than a political ploy to hoodwink the international community so that it can keep (Suu Kyi) under lock and key while the military maneuvers its way to election victory on 2010," said a statement from the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma.

The coalition describes itself as the country's government-in-exile and has links to Suu Kyi's party. Burma is the old name for Myanmar and preferred by the military regime's opponents.

Foreign leaders, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, condemned the charges and called for her release.

"If the 2010 elections are to have any semblance of credibility, she and all political prisoners must be freed to participate," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said.

In the past the junta — which regards Suu Kyi as the biggest threat to its rule — has found other reasons to extend her periods of house arrest, bending the letter of the law. Suu Kyi, 63, has already spent more than 13 of the last 19 years in detention without trial for her nonviolent promotion of democracy, despite international pressure for her release.

Early Thursday morning, armed police drove Suu Kyi and two women who live with her to Insein Prison. The women, assistants loyal to her political party who have lived with her since she was detained in 2003, were charged with the same offense, lawyers said.

The junta scheduled elections as part of its so-called "roadmap to democracy," but the effort is widely perceived as a guise for continued military control.

Parliamentary rule was overthrown by a coup in 1962, and the army has been in control since then. It held an election in 1990 but refused to honor the results after Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won in a landslide.

The party announced two weeks ago that it would consider taking part in next year's polls if the country's military rulers meet three demands, including Suu Kyi's release. While it has not ruled out participating even if the demands were not met, further action against Suu Kyi heightens the prospect of an election boycott.

Many of Suu Kyi's supporters were furious at the man who triggered the charge and faces criminal charges himself.

"Everyone is very angry with this wretched American. He is the cause of all these problems," Suu Kyi's lawyer, Kyi Win, told reporters. "He's a fool."

Yettaw was arrested last week for allegedly swimming across a lake to secretly enter Suu Kyi's home and staying there for two days. His motives remain unclear.

An Asian diplomat briefed on the case Thursday said Yettaw told the government he had gone there to pray.

"But the government doesn't seem to believe him," said the diplomat, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Yettaw's ex-wife, Yvonne, said he is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, popularly known as the Mormons, but she was aware of no connection between his faith and his activities in Myanmar.

Yvonne Yettaw, speaking from Palm Springs, Calif., told The Associated Press that her ex-husband lived on veteran's disability benefits, supplemented by occasional construction work. She said he had been working on a psychology paper about forgiveness after trauma, and went to Southeast Asia for research on that, though he was "real secretive" about his journey.

"I wasn't told why he was going, what he was going to do," she said, noting that he left four children, ages 10 through 17, home under the supervision of neighbors in Missouri.

She said that when he left the U.S. in April, he told her she would know in two weeks "whether I'm coming back when I'm supposed to come back."

"I think there was a possibility that he could get in trouble," she said.

Yettaw was charged at a Thursday court hearing with illegally entering a restricted zone, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and breaking immigration laws, which is punishable by up to one year behind bars, said Hla Myo Myint, a lawyer for Suu Kyi.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Richard Mei said Yettaw had no legal representation, but an English-speaking lawyer was being sought.

Earlier this week a pro-government Myanmar Web site said that on arrival at Suu Kyi's house, Yettaw first met her two female assistants — a mother and daughter who are her sole allowed companions — and told them he had diabetes and was tired and hungry. The two women were said to have given him food. Some of the details in the report on were later published in the state media, suggesting they were leaked by the security services.

"When the man arrived she (Suu Kyi) asked him to leave. She did not invite him in," Kyi Win, another of Suu Kyi's lawyers, told The Associated Press on Thursday. He told the U.S. Government-backed Radio Free Asia that Yettaw pleaded with her to let him stay because he felt weak, so she reluctantly let him stay in a downstairs bedroom.

The Web site also claimed that Yettaw made a similar secret visit to Suu Kyi's house late last year. The U.S. Embassy has confirmed that Yettaw was in Myanmar at the time and his 17-year-old son, Brian, said he had backpacked for four months in Asia last year with his father, who stayed two months longer.


Associated Press writers Grant Peck in Bangkok, Maria Fisher in Kansas City and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations in New York contributed to to this story.