Global pressure builds against Aung San Suu Kyi trial

By staff writers
May 25, 2009

As global outrage builds, Burma's ruling military dictatorship has "strongly rejected" a statement by the Association of Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN) condemning the trial of the imprisoned pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

The ruling junta accused Thailand, which issued the statement one week ago as the rotating chair of the 10-member bloc, of interfering in Burma's internal affairs, the New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported.

The country is officially called Myanmar, but many people reject the name as an imposition of the military regime and continue to call it Burma.

Aung San Suu Kyi declared herself innocent of the charges she finally heard in court for the first time on Friday 22 May 2009, the fifth day of her trial on allegations of subversion.

“I'm not guilty,” the Myanmar opposition leader told the court, according to a spokesperson for her party, Nyan Win. When the court asked why she pleaded not-guilty, she simply replied, “I didn't break any law.”

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has been under house arrest for years under orders from Burma's military regime. She is being tried on allegations of subversion along with two of her maids for the 3 May incident in which an American, John William Yettaw, aged 53, swam across a lake to her house and stayed there for at least one night.

If convicted, Suu Kyi, 63, could be sentenced to three to five years in prison. The trial is being held inside a prison compound in Yangon and so far, all but one day has been closed to the public, news media and diplomats.

The trial broke for the weekend and resumes today with Suu Kyi's defense, Win said.

The trial has prompted international criticism, with nine Nobel laureates - including Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of South Africa - calling it a “mockery.”

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called the charges against Suu Kyi “baseless” and accused Burma's ruling junta of “continuing (its) resistance to a free and open electoral process.”

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon told CNN he was in talks with the country's leadership about travelling to Yangon “as soon as possible” to seek the release of Suu Kyi from her long-standing house arrest, as well as taking steps toward democratisation.

Aung Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won more than 80 per cent of the legislative seats in 1990 but she was disqualified from serving because of her house arrest and the military junta ignored the results. It now says citizens who bore children with foreigners cannot run for office.

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