Page last updated at 21:24 GMT, Thursday, 14 May 2009 22:24 UK

Western outcry over Suu Kyi case


Hillary Clinton is "deeply troubled" by the charges against Ms Suu Kyi

Western governments have condemned the new charges brought against Burma's pro-democracy opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanded her immediate release, saying she was "deeply troubled" by the "baseless" charges against her.

Other world leaders have also expressed concern over Ms Suu Kyi's detention.

She faces trial on Monday for breaching the terms of her house arrest after an apparently uninvited visit by a US man.

'Tenuous pretext'

"We call on the Burmese authorities to release her immediately and unconditionally along with her doctor and the more than 2,100 political prisoners currently being held," Mrs Clinton said.

Ms Suu Kyi in May 2002

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed "grave concern", and called on the Burmese government not to undermine Burma's national reconciliation process, his spokeswoman said.

Ms Su Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), which won a landslide election victory in 1990 only to be denied power by the military, "strongly condemned" the charges, which come two weeks before her latest detention was due to expire.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown earlier said he was "deeply disturbed" by the charges and he accused the Burmese military government of seeking "any pretext, no matter how tenuous" to extend the detention.

The EU special envoy to Burma, Piero Fassino, said there was "no justification" for the detention.

Thailand's prime minister also expressed concern on behalf of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), one of the few groups that allow Burma as a member.

"We would like to see positive steps being taken," Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told Reuters, adding that the group was "concerned" by the recent events.

'Stout heart'

After visiting her at Rangoon's notorious Insein prison, Ms Suu Kyi's main lawyer, Kyi Win, told the BBC's Newshour programme that she was physically well and her spirit was strong.

Myint Swe
Myint Swe, BBC Burmese Service

Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest is due to expire at the end of May. There is a legal requirement to charge her or else release her from detention.

At this pivotal time, the incident of the US citizen allegedly staying at her compound is being seen by critics as a pretext to put her behind bars.

The charges against Ms Suu Kyi of breaching the terms of her house arrest show that the authorities will not tolerate any challenge to their power and legitimacy.

Despite international pressure and concern, the Burmese government seems intent on pursuing elections in 2010, which the generals think will legitimise their rule.

"From all appearances, she is quite well and of course she is a little thin, that's all," he said of the 63-year-old Nobel Peace laureate.

He said she asked him to tell her friends that she was physically well and even offered him encouragement, saying: "You have to have a very strong and stout heart".

Reports say Ms Suu Kyi was charged under the country's Law Safeguarding the State from the Dangers of Subversive Elements.

The charges carry a maximum jail term of five years, which would stretch her detention past its supposed expiry date on 27 May and beyond the 2010 elections.

Her lawyers have vowed to contest the charges.

American 'fool'

The American man, John Yettaw, was arrested on 6 May after swimming across a lake to her house and staying there secretly for two days. His motives remain unclear.

He will be tried on immigration and security offences, said a lawyer for Ms Suu Kyi. The charges are yet to be confirmed by the government.

The Burmese authorities have described the American as a 53-year-old Vietnam war veteran and resident of the state of Missouri.


Lawyer Kyi Win has blamed Mr Yettaw for her detention, calling him a "fool".

Ms Suu Kyi was detained after her party's victory in a general election in 1990 and has been under house arrest for much of the past 19 years.

Earlier this month, the government rejected an appeal for her to be freed, despite claims from the NLD that she was suffering from low blood pressure and dehydration.

Her condition was said to have improved after her doctor put her on an intravenous drip last week.

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