Thursday, May 21

Secretary of State Speaks Out

Myanmar's military regime is allowing reporters and diplomats into the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi.

But allowing access to the trial isn't halting accusations that the hearing is a ploy to keep the pro-democracy leader behind bars through next year's election.

Suu Kyi is accused of violating the terms of her house arrest after an American stayed at her home without official permission. The offense is punishable by up to five years' imprisonment.

The Nobel Peace laureate has been in detention without trial for more than 13 of the past 19 years. She was due to be released next week.

Meantime U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says it's "outrageous" that Myanmar's military-led government is still holding Suu Kyi in detention.

Clinton told lawmakers Wednesday at a Capitol Hill hearing that the junta is holding Suu Kyi merely because she is politically popular.

Clinton says elections scheduled in Myanmar for next year are "illegitimate" even before they begin because of the way the junta has treated the Nobel Peace laureate.

Suu Kyi has been in detention without trial for more than 13 of the past 19 years. She is accused of violating the terms of her house arrest after an American man stayed at her home without official permission.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday it is "outrageous" that Myanmar had put pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi on trial but hoped it would end soon and she would be released.

Clinton, speaking to a Senate subcommittee overseeing State Department funding, said the Obama administration was trying to see if third countries could pressure the military junta in Yangon to obtain her release.

"Clearly China, India and others are major players," Clinton said, suggesting these countries would be approached.

"We're going to try (to push for her release), and I don't think I can make any kind of assurance because we don't know whether we will have any success in convincing them otherwise," Clinton told the senators.

"But it is outrageous that they are trying her and that they continue to hold her because of her political popularity and they intend to hold elections in 2010," the chief US diplomat said.

These elections from the beginning "will be illegitimate because of the way that they have treated her," she continued.

"So it is our hope that this baseless trial will end with a quick release of her and then a return to some political involvement eventually by her and her party," she added.

Aung San Suu Kyi went on trial on Monday on the charges of breaching the terms of her house arrest over a bizarre incident in which an American swam to her lakeside house.

The charges carry a jail term of up to five years and would stretch her detention past its supposed expiry date this month and through controversial elections due in 2010.

John Yettaw, 53, who was held for sneaking into Suu Kyi's house and staying there for two days before he was caught, was also put on trial on charges of breaking the security law and immigration conditions.

Yettaw, 53, apparently used a pair of homemade flippers to swim across a lake to her crumbling residence in an apparent show of solidarity, but Aung San Suu Kyi's main lawyer Kyi Win said they had asked him to leave.

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