Myanmar (Burma): Aung San Suu Kyi charged with breaching detention

***UPDATE: On Monday 18 May, there will be a global day of action for Aung San Suu Kyi, who is due to face trial for supposedly violating the terms of her house arrest. A peaceful demonstration will be held between 12 and 1pm in front of the Burmese Embassy in London to demand the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all of Burma’s political prisoners. Please do come along and show your support.


Location: Burmese Embassy 19A Charles Street, Mayfair, London, W1J 5DX (Nearest tube: Green Park)***


English PEN was extremely disappointed to learn that the leader of Burma’s National League of Democracy and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi has been charged with breaching the conditions of her house arrest. The trial begins on 18 May 2009, and Suu Kyi could face up to five years in prison if found guilty. English PEN is therefore urging members to send letters of appeal calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. To take action, please click here. We also ask that you sign the petition, launched by Free Burma’s Political Prisoners Now! Campaign, calling for the release of Burma’s political prisoners. To sign the petition please click here or email

The following is a report from, published 14 May 2009:

Suu Kyi Charged in Myanmar With Breaching Detention (Update1)

By Ed Johnson and Daniel Ten Kate

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was charged today with breaching the conditions of her house arrest order as the military regime moves to keep her in detention, her party said.

The trial will begin May 18 and the Nobel Peace Prize winner faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison if found guilty, Nyan Win, a spokesman for the National League for Democracy, said by telephone from the former capital, Yangon, after the hearing at Insein Prison.

“This is a political issue, not a criminal case,” Nyan Win said. “She did not do anything wrong.”

The charge relates to a U.S. citizen who allegedly swam across a lake to visit Suu Kyi last week, violating a ban on her meeting with anyone without permission. The American, John Yettaw, was charged today with breaching a security law, Nyan Win said.

Suu Kyi, 63, has spent 13 of the past 20 years in detention for leading the pro-democracy movement in the country formerly known as Burma. Her latest term under house arrest is due to expire at the end of this month and opposition activists say the junta is looking for a legal pretext to keep her detained.

“We unequivocally condemn this attempt by the junta to cloak its continued detention of Suu Kyi in a veil of legitimacy,” Jared Genser, her U.S.-based legal counsel, said today before the court hearing.

Suu Kyi was charged under Article 22 of the State Protection Law, Nyan Win said, adding her two maids also face trial.

U.S. National

Yettaw was detained by police last week for allegedly breaching security at Suu Kyi’s lakeside home and staying there for two days, according to state-run media. He was uninvited and Suu Kyi encouraged him to leave, Genser said.

Myanmar authorities have described Yettaw as a 53-year-old former soldier from Detroit. The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper said he arrived in Yangon on a tourist visa on May 2 and swam to Suu Kyi’s compound the following night. He was arrested in the early hours of May 6 while swimming back across the lake.

Authorities confiscated his passport, a black haversack, torch, folding pliers, a camera, two $100 bills and some Myanmar currency, according to the newspaper. They are investigating his motives for entering Suu Kyi’s home, it said.

“He is a fool,” Agence France-Presse cited Suu Kyi’s lawyer Kyi Win as saying. “We have to blame him.”

Yettaw was granted consular access yesterday, the U.S. State Department said in a statement, without elaborating.


Security Threat

Suu Kyi has been detained since May 2003 under a law that allows someone deemed a threat to national security to be held without charge, according to Genser, president of the U.S.-based Freedom Now group.

The junta says it can detain her under the law for six years, or until May 27, and is now looking for another means to deny Suu Kyi her freedom, he added. 

The U.S. is leading calls for the release of Suu Kyi and about 2,100 other political prisoners in Myanmar. The State Department earlier this week called on the junta to allow a doctor to visit Suu Kyi, who was suffering from low blood pressure and dehydration.

The opposition leader underwent gynecological surgery in 2003, needed treatment in the hospital in 2006 and suffered low blood pressure and was unable to leave her bed in September.

The NLD won Myanmar’s last elections in 1990, a result rejected by the military that has ruled the country since 1962.

The junta plans elections in 2010 after passing a constitution last year that it said was backed by 92 percent of voters. The NLD and other groups have denounced the charter, which bars Suu Kyi from holding office.

Originally posted with the url:

About English PEN staff

This content is published by the English PEN staff.

View all posts by English PEN staff →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *