Page last updated at 11:20 GMT, Sunday, 16 August 2009 12:20 UK

Burma deports Suu Kyi US 'guest'


Suu Kyi 'guest' lands in Thailand

The US man jailed for visiting Burma's detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been released and deported.

John Yettaw, whose health is described as fragile, left Burma on a plane with visiting US Senator Jim Webb, who negotiated the deal on Saturday.

Mr Webb was the most senior US official to meet the Burmese leader. He also met pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Mr Yettaw was jailed for seven years over the visit and Ms Suu Kyi was given an additional 18 months' house arrest.

Mr Yettaw flew with Senator Webb to Bangkok, where he was taken to hospital in a US embassy van.

Senator Webb told reporters 53-year-old Mr Yettaw was "not a well man".

"He had a medical incident this morning when they read him his orders of deportation," the senator told reporters at Bangkok airport.

"He's now undergoing a thorough medical review here in a hospital, and soon he will be able to return to his family."

His wife, Betty, told the BBC on Saturday she was happy to hear the "wonderful" news that he would be released.

'Sent by God'

Senator Webb thanked the Burmese authorities for releasing Mr Yettaw.

It is my hope that we can take advantage of these gestures as a way to begin laying a foundation of goodwill and confidence-building in the future
Senator Jim Webb

"I am not going to apologise for the actions that he took but I believe that it was a good gesture from your government to our country to allow him to return home to his family for humanitarian reasons," he said at Rangoon airport shortly before his departure.

However, Burmese dissidents say Senator Webb's trip could be seen as an endorsement of the poor treatment received by Ms Suu Kyi and more than 2,000 other political prisoners.

After his arrest, Mr Yettaw, said he had been sent by God to deliver a warning to Ms Suu Kyi that she would be assassinated.

Senator Webb said he had asked Burmese leaders to consider the release of Ms Suu Kyi and allow her to participate in the political process ahead of next year's elections, but that they had not yet responded.

Later he met the pro-democracy leader for talks lasting about 40 minutes. She was taken to a state guesthouse near her home to meet Senator Webb.


Senator Webb met Ms Suu Kyi after talks with Burma's military leader

Ms Suu Kyi went on trial in May after Mr Yettaw swam to her lakeside home with homemade flippers, evading guards.

She was charged with breaking the terms of her house arrest by sheltering Mr Yettaw and, after many delays, was sentenced on Tuesday to three years in prison.

Gen Than Shwe salutes during Armed Forces Day - 27 March 2006
Gen Than Shwe has ruled Burma since 1992

Although the sentence was commuted to 18 months' house arrest by Than Shwe, it ensures the opposition leader cannot take part in planned elections next year.

Ms Suu Kyi, 64, has spent 14 of the past 20 years under house arrest.

Senator Webb, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asia and Pacific affairs, has previously called for more "constructive" US engagement with Burma.

He said in July that the trial of Ms Suu Kyi would make this difficult.

The UN Security Council expressed "serious concern" following Ms Suu Kyi's conviction earlier this week and urged the release of all political prisoners, while the EU extended sanctions against Burma.

But Burma's neighbour China said the world should respect its laws.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who is the current chairman of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) told the BBC that imposing sanctions could lead to problems and that it was important to take a balanced approach to dealing with Burma.

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