May 24, 2009

8,888 Petitioners From the Philippines Calling for the Release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and All Political Prisoners in Burma

The Free Burma Coalition-Philippines (FBC-Phils) and the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) wish to announce that it has reached the number of 8,888 faces and signatures as part of its campaign for the release of all political prisoners in Burma including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

As of the last count, close to 9,000 signatures, personality sketches, photos and messages of support were gathered by FBC-Phils and IID to conclude the 2-year campaign which began in late 2007 during the 2nd National Assembly of the FBC-Phils.

The 8,888 signatures will form part of the global campaign called “Free Burma's Political Prisoners Now!” (FBPPN) launched in March 13 this year. The global campaign aims to gather 888,888 signatures for submission to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

Through various fora, campus tours, factory hopping and public exhibits, the 8,888 faces were gathered by the FBC-Phils and IID which can be proudly reflected as the Philippine peoples' contribution to Burma's struggle for genuine peace, human rights and democracy.

Kindly visit for preview of the photo petition. IID and FBC-Phils are in the process of uploading the photos, names and signatures to the website. A full report of the activities and locations where the signature campaign was done over the past two years will also be posted soon.

May 18, 2009

Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi on trial

Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has gone on trial at the notorious Insein prison in Rangoon.

Undercover BBC correspondent: 'People here are very angry'

She is charged with breaching the terms of her house arrest, because of a visit by an American man who swam across a lake to her house earlier this month.

Dozens of supporters gathered near the jail as the trial got under way. It has now been adjourned for the day.

Many observers see the charges as a pretext to ensure Ms Suu Kyi is in jail during next year's elections.

Ms Suu Kyi has already spent 13 of the past 19 years in jail or detained in her home, and faces a further three to five years' imprisonment if found guilty of these latest charges.

It is unclear how long the trial will take, but estimates range from a few days to several weeks, as the government is expected to summon 22 witnesses to support its claim.

Two of Ms Suu Kyi's assistants are on trial with her, and Mr Yettaw is also being tried.

Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party won landslide elections rejected by the military in 1990, and she was awarded the Nobel peace prize soon after.

Wire barricades

Security is tight around Insein prison, says a BBC reporter in Rangoon - whose name is being withheld for his safety, because all foreign journalists are barred from Burma.

Dozens of supporters, including prominent members of her National League for Democracy party, gathered near the jail in quiet protest.

But riot police set up barbed wire barricades to prevent them getting too close and plain-clothes officers filmed them.

The ambassadors of Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy were barred from entering the prison, but the US consul was reportedly allowed in, possibly to see Mr Yettaw.

Mr Yettaw was thought to be in the courtroom with Ms Suu Kyi on the first day of the trial, though it is unclear whether he was being tried as part of the case against Ms Suu Kyi.

There are no outside observers, but unnamed Burmese and opposition officials said proceedings had now been adjourned until Tuesday, after several hours of testimony.

Mr Yettaw arrived on her back lawn in Rangoon earlier this month, after swimming across a lake using home-made flippers.

He was almost certainly uninvited, and Ms Suu Kyi's lawyers say she will plead not guilty to breaking the terms of her house arrest, saying he was allowed to stay only because he pleaded exhaustion.

Ms Suu Kyi's home is one of the most closely guarded locations in Rangoon, and her supporters believe the military authorities must have allowed the man to reach it, as he tried the same stunt unsuccessfully last November.

According to Burma's constitution, Ms Suu Kyi was scheduled to be freed on 27 May after six consecutive years of house arrest.

The misguided exploits of an apparently well-intentioned individual have now given the military government a pretext to keep her locked up, say correspondents.

Analysts say the trial shows that the military junta still fears Aung San Suu Kyi's influence over Burmese people, despite the fact she has been in detention for most of the past two decades.

They are keen to keep her detained in the run-up to the elections in 2010 - largely derided as a sham by the international community.

Foreign protests

Ms Suu Kyi's prosecution is taking place in such haste and secrecy, and on such bizarre charges, that it has already been dismissed as farcical by many governments around the world.

Protests against the trial took place at outside Burmese embassies around the world on Monday.

US President Barack Obama formally extended sanctions against Burma on Friday.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Monday that the European Union should also consider toughening sanctions against the Burmese regime.

But so far there has been no official reaction from Burma's two large neighbours, China and India, or the South East Asia regional group Asean, which counts Burma as a member.

May 8, 2009

Myanmar arrests US man for entering Suu Kyi home

Myanmar's detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi received an unexpected guest while under house arrest — an American who swam under the cover of darkness to her lakeside home, sneaked in, and stayed two nights.

Suu Kyi, founder and head of the opposition National League for Democracy party, is allowed virtually no visitors under the terms of her house arrest and her neighborhood, with the U.S. Embassy nearby, is normally one of the most closely guarded areas in Myanmar's biggest city.

Even swimming in Inya Lake in the vicinity of Suu Kyi's compound is not allowed.

But according to a report in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper Thursday, a U.S. citizen named "John Willian Yeattaw" confessed that he swam in the lake to Suu Kyi's home on Sunday night, "secretly entered the house and stayed there," and left Tuesday night.

"Further investigation is being made to find out his motive for secretly entering the area that is out of bounds on security grounds," it said.

Yeattaw was arrested when "security personnel found a suspicious-looking foreigner swimming" at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, said the report. Suu Kyi's home is more than a 1 1/4 mile- (2-kilometer) swim from where he was found.

It was unclear whether Suu Kyi was in contact with the intruder. Nyan Win, spokesman for her party, said he had no information about the American visitor aside from what he read in the local press. But he said it was worrisome how easily the man accessed the tightly guarded home.

"We are very much concerned of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's security. What happened shows a security lapse," Nyan Win said. "Daw" is a term of respect in Myanmar.

Dozens of police entered Suu Kyi's compound Thursday morning and stayed until late afternoon, according to neighbors who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals in the military-ruled country.

Yeattaw was unavailable for comment Thursday.

It would be the first known instance that anyone has sneaked into Suu Kyi's compound, or swam across the lake in an attempt to get there.

The man was found with an empty 1.3-gallon (5-liter) plastic water jug — presumably to use as a floatation device — as well as a U.S. passport, flashlight, pliers, camera, two $100 bills and some local currency, the report said.

A spokesman from the U.S. Embassy in Yangon said consular officers were "seeking access" to the man as is routine in any case of an American citizen arrested overseas.

"Right now we don't know anything more than what is generally known, that this man was arrested for swimming across the lake and wound up being at Aung San Suu Kyi's house," said embassy spokesman Richard Mei, who said he could not immediately confirm the man's identity or spelling of his name.

By the end of Thursday, Mei said, there was "no response from police with regards to our request to see him."