Myanmar rejects criticism

YANGON: Myanmar's state media denounced criticism of its planned elections and ongoing detention of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi Friday as she faced her final trial hearing in prison.

The Nobel peace laureate is due to appear at an afternoon court session at Insein prison where final arguments will be presented at her trial on charges of breaching the conditions of her house arrest.

Foreign ministers attending Asia's biggest security conference in Thailand this week urged Myanmar's military junta to release Aung San Suu Kyi, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dangling the carrot of future business ties.

But state mouthpiece the New Light of Myanmar rejected the comments as "interference".

"Demanding release of Daw Suu Kyi means showing reckless disregard for the law," said the editorial in the English-language newspaper.

"The court will hand down a reasonable term to her if she is found guilty, and it will release her if she is found not guilty," it insisted.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) leader faces up to five years in jail on charges of breaching the conditions of her house arrest after a bizarre incident in which US national John Yettaw swam to her lakeside home uninvited in May.

Security was extremely tight near the Yangon jail on Friday, witnesses said, with more than 10 police trucks and armed officers manning a barricade by the prison gates where about 40 NLD supporters were gathered.

Aung San Suu Kyi's lawyers have told AFP they are fully prepared to present their final arguments on Friday, when a date will also be set for a verdict.

Diplomats from the embassies of Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Norway have been permitted to attend the hearing although most of the trial has been held behind closed doors.

The New Light piece also defended elections planned for next year after criticism that they would not be credible if political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, were not released and permitted to stand.

The Nobel laureate has spent 13 of the past 19 years in detention since the regime refused to recognise the NLD's landslide victory in the country's last democratic polls in 1990.