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."