Junta blames anti-govt forces for US national’s intrusion row

YANGON : Myanmar’s junta alleged today that anti-government forces engineered an American’s illegal visit to the house of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to embarrass the government and aggravate its relations with the West.

Authorities detained John W Yettaw after he left Suu Kyi’s heavily guarded compound earlier this month and charged the Nobel peace laureate with violating terms of her house arrest by allowing the American to stay at her home without official permission.

The offence is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment. Her trial began on Monday.

Responding to anger abroad over the trial, Myanmar’s Foreign Minister U Nyan Win was quoted in the New Light of Myanmar as telling his Japanese counterpart that the Yettaw incident was manufactured by internal and external anti-government forces — a term usually referring to pro-democracy groups.

At a time when the United States, Japan and the European Union were reviewing their policies toward Myanmar, Nyan Win said “it was likely that this incident was trumped up to intensify international pressure on Myanmar by internal and external anti-government elements who do not wish to see the positive changes in those countries’ policies toward Myanmar,” the paper said. The paper reported that Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone called on May 18 to express his concern about Suu Kyi’s trial.

Critics have accused the junta of using Yettaw’s visit as a pretext to keeping Suu Kyi in detention through polls scheduled for next year — the culmination of the junta’s “roadmap to democracy,” which has been

criticised as a fig leaf for continued military rule.

Suu Kyi, who is being held at the infamous Insein Prison along with scores of other political prisoners, had been scheduled to be freed on May 27 after six consecutive years under house arrest. She has been in detention without trial for more than 13 of the past 19 years.

Suu Kyi is standing trial with two female members of her party who live with her, and Yettaw, the American man who triggered the charges by swimming across a lake to Suu Kyi’s property under the cover of darkness earlier this month and sneaking uninvited into her home. Suu Kyi’s lawyers have said she asked Yettaw to leave, but allowed him to stay for two days.