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Suu Kyi ‘show trial’ opened to journalists and diplomats

Video by Catherine NICHOLSON

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-05-20

The trial of Burmese Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has been opened to diplomats and a handful of local journalists in an apparent bid to placate growing international criticism, but many feel the verdict has already been decided.

The Burmese authorities opened the trial of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday to diplomats and a handful of local reporters in an apparent bid to calm growing international outrage at the regime.


The first two days of hearings were held behind closed doors and European diplomats were refused access on Monday, but on Wednesday the junta allowed representatives from all 30 foreign embassies to attend the trial.


But many diplomats believe the junta is merely paying lip-service to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) after the group issued a rare statement condemning Suu Kyi’s arrest and trial.


“It appears the junta is reacting to ASEAN pressure,” says FRANCE 24 correspondent Nelson Rand. “But it doesn’t really change the fact that this is a show trial.


“There is speculation that the authorities want a verdict before May 27 which is when her period of house arrest is set to expire.


“I think the Burmese generals had misjudged the international reaction, and will probably reduce the inevitable prison sentence to another five years house arrest.”


Suu Kyi appeared healthy and confident during the 45-minute hearing on the third day of her trial inside Yangon's notorious Insein Central Prison.


The 63-year-old, known affectionately as "The Lady" by her supporters, faces up to five years in jail if found guilty of breaking the terms of her latest house arrest.


At a meeting with diplomats from Russia, Thailand and Singapore at her prison guesthouse, Suu Kyi said she and two female assistants also on trial were being treated well but hoped for “better days”.


Singapore's Foreign Ministry said she told the diplomats that national reconciliation was still possible "if all parties so wished".


"She also expressed the view that it was not too late for something good to come out of this unfortunate incident".


It was not clear if the trial would be open on Thursday.

New sanctions against the regime

The case against Suu Kyi, accused of violating her house arrest after an uninvited American intruder swam to her lakeside home two weeks ago, has outraged the West.


The European Union threatened to tighten sanctions over the handling of the trial, while US President Barack Obama formally extended American sanctions last week.


Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide election victory in 1990, only to be denied power by the military, which has ruled the country for more than four decades.


She has spent 13 of the past 19 years in detention, most of them at her home in Yangon, guarded by police, and had her mail intercepted and visitors restricted.


Despite the tight security at her home, authorities say John Yettaw, a 53-year-old American, sneaked inside on May 3 after using homemade flippers to swim across Inya Lake.


Suu Kyi and her two assistants were charged last Thursday with breaking a law protecting the state from "those desiring to cause subversive acts".


Her lawyers say she did not invite Yettaw and should not be held responsible for the actions of a troubled man.


Yettaw, dressed in a white shirt and khaki trousers, sat separately from Suu Kyi and her companions. He appeared nervous during Wednesday's hearing and did not speak to the diplomats.


He is charged with immigration violations, trespassing into a restricted area and violating the same security law.

Date created : 2009-05-20