Page last updated at 07:53 GMT, Thursday, 21 May 2009 08:53 UK

Diplomats barred from Burma trial

Aung San Suu Kyi meets Thai, Singapore and Russian diplomats, 20 May
Diplomats were allowed to meet Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday

Burmese authorities have barred international observers from the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, a day after allowing them to attend.

The government opened proceedings to diplomats and journalists on Wednesday, in an apparent response to criticism.

But a Burmese official said that the move had been "only for one day".

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is accused of breaking the terms of her house arrest, after a US man swam across a lake to visit her.

Defence lawyers have argued that she did not invite the US national, John Yettaw, to visit, and only allowed him to stay because he said he was exhausted.


Ms Suu Kyi, 63, has been in detention for more than 13 of the past 19 years.

Her latest period of house arrest was scheduled to expire on 27 May, and many observers see this case against her as a pretext to ensure she is still in detention during next year's elections.


On Wednesday Aung San Suu Kyi was allowed to speak to three foreign diplomats. Several others, along with 10 journalists, were allowed into court at Rangoon's Insein prison.

But a Burmese official said that the court would not be open to international observers on Thursday.

"Only for one day were diplomats and press allowed," the unidentified official told AFP news agency.

Insein jail

But the British ambassador to Burma, Mark Canning, who was given access to the trial on Wednesday, told the BBC the authorities might be prepared to allow foreign observers into court again.

"It was pitched to us as a one-off, but they also said that if the experiment went well then they might be prepared to repeat it.

"It's a tactic which they've employed in other circumstances; in the wake of the cyclone last year for example we saw the regime taken aback at the strength of international criticism, and we saw them then back-pedal and make a number of concessions designed to buy off that criticism."

However Mr Canning also said he did not think Ms Suu Kyi would receive a fair trial as the story's "conclusion is already scripted".

Burma's ruling generals say they will hold multi-party elections in 2010.

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won the last elections, in 1990, but was never allowed to take power.

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