Police to testify against Suu Kyi

YANGON: Myanmar police were expected to give evidence Tuesday against pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on the second day of a trial that has sparked international outrage.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner is accused of breaching the terms of her house arrest after American John Yettaw swam to her lakeside home earlier this month, a charge which could see her jailed for between three and five years.

Around 100 members of her opposition party gathered again outside the notorious Insein prison near Yangon, where the trial is being held behind closed doors, watched by riot police manning a tight security cordon.

Yettaw and two political assistants who live with Aung San Suu Kyi at the residence where she has been detained for most of the last 19 years are also on trial.

"The trial will continue with the official complaints by the police. We don't know if Suu Kyi will speak today. All four will be in court," a Myanmar official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The first witness, a police colonel who filed the original complaint against her, gave evidence on Monday. A total of 22 witnesses are expected to testify -- 21 of them police officers.

The trial has led to renewed calls for the release of the 63-year-old, and on Monday night Myanmar's partners in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which rarely criticises the junta, finally joined in.

A statement issued by Thailand, which holds the rotating chairmanship of the bloc, expressed "grave concern about recent developments relating to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, given her fragile health." "With the eyes of the international community on Myanmar at present, the honour and the credibility of the Government of the Union of Myanmar are at stake," it said.

In Manila, about 30 Filipino protesters marched in front of Myanmar's embassy on Tuesday to call for her freedom and there were similar protests on Monday in Canada, Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong.

Myanmar's tightly controlled state media reported on the trial for the first time overnight, giving a rare mention of the imprisoned activist, who is still seen as the junta's most powerful foe.

State television and radio carried brief items late Monday while the government mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar newspaper and Burmese-language Myanmar Ahlin had back-page reports on Tuesday.

In Washington, US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Monday that a US consular officer was present in the courtroom for the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi and Yettaw.

Yettaw used a pair of homemade flippers to swim across the lake to Aung San Suu Kyi's house, where he allegedly stayed between May 3 and May 5. He also allegedly crossed to the property on November 30, 2008. Her latest six-year period of detention was due to expire on May 27, but Yettaw's visit has apparently provided the ruling generals with the ammunition they need to extend her detention past polls due in 2010.

The junta, headed by reclusive Senior General Than Shwe, has kept Aung San Suu Kyi in detention for a total of 13 years since 1990, when it refused to recognise her party's landslide victory in Myanmar's last elections.

The military has ruled Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, since 1962.

A western diplomat in Yangon said that Myanmar was "surprised and rather embarrassed" by the scope of the international reaction to the trial.

The diplomat said it was likely that Myanmar's giant neighbour and ally China, which has been silent on the issue, privately urged the generals to find a way to calm the international uproar.

French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy meanwhile appealed for Aung San Suu Kyi's release in an open letter to Myanmar.

EU nations were mulling an increase in sanctions against the Myanmar regime but many see China and India as the best hopes of applying pressure on the junta.