Myanmar’s military junta said Tuesday that the house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi does not expire for six more months.
And though the government considered releasing her at the end of the term, it said it did not have a choice but to put her on trial after she met with an American visitor in her home. “As Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of Gen. Aung San, the leader of our country, we were deeply thinking whether to extend her detention or not,” Police Brigadier General Myint Thein told reporters Tuesday. “Unfortunately, a U.S. citizen entered her house for two days. She allowed and made conversation with him, gave him food.” “These kind of actions broke the law,” he added. “This is why we have no way but to open a case. And we are very sad about this case.” Suu Kyi is the daughter of Gen. Bogyoke Aung San, who played an instrumental role in bringing about the country’s independence from British colonial rule. He was assassinated in 1947 and is still revered in the country. His daughter, pro-democracy advocate Suu Kyi, has been under house arrest for 13 of the past 19 years — a confinement the military junta has regularly extended. Her latest round of home detention — after five years of confinement — expires Wednesday, according to her supporters at home and abroad. But Myint Thein rejected the claim, saying the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner has actually been under house arrest for four-and-a-half years.
U.S. man tried with Suu Kyi wanted to film her
Neighbors describe man at center of Suu Kyi case
Background: Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar’s democracy face
In depth: Myanmar
The official said Suu Kyi’s house arrest officially went into effect on November 28, 2004. This, he said, gives the government six more months to restrict her movement. Last week, the military began prosecuting Suu Kyi on allegations of subversion. Her supporters say the move is meant to keep her confined even longer — beyond the general elections that the junta has scheduled for next year. If convicted, Suu Kyi, 63, could be sentenced to three to five years in prison. She is expected to take the stand Tuesday. A small group of foreign journalists based in Myanmar will be allowed to view the proceedings inside the Insean Prison compound near Yangon. Suu Kyi and two of her housekeepers are being tried on charges that stem from May 3. That day, an American, John William Yettaw, allegedly swam across a lake to her crumbling, colonial-era home and stayed for two days. Watch the U.N. secretary general explain what he is doing for Suu Kyi » The government said Yettaw’s presence in the closely guarded home violated the conditions of Suu Kyi’s house arrest. The country’s regime rarely allows Suu Kyi any visitors, and foreigners are not allowed overnight stays in local households without government permission. Yettaw, a 53-year-old former military serviceman from Falcon, Missouri, is charged with violating immigration laws and trespassing. The charges carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison. A lawyer selected by the U.S. Embassy is representing him. According to Yettaw’s testimony in court Friday, he made the unauthorized trip because he had a vision that Suu Kyi would be assassinated and he wanted to warn her. He muttered to himself during the proceedings, including utterances that Suu Kyi is innocent, said Nyan Win, spokesman for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. Suu Kyi’s prosecution has prompted international criticism, with nine Nobel laureates — including Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa — calling it a “mockery.” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the charges against Suu Kyi “baseless” and accused the junta of “continuing resistance to a free and open electoral process.” The Nobel laureate has been the face of Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement and the focus of a global campaign to free her. Her party won over 80 percent of the legislative seats in 1990. But she was disqualified from serving because of her house arrest, and the military junta ignored the results.
The government has said next year’s scheduled elections will reintroduce democracy in Myanmar. But its plan includes a clause that forbids citizens who bore children with foreigners from running for office. That makes Suu Kyi ineligible. She married a British man and has two sons with him.