Burmese Junta Closes Suu Kyi Trial Again

May 21, 2009 - 1:35 AM
Burma's government went back to barring reporters and diplomats from Aung San Suu Kyi's trial on Thursday, a day after briefly allowing them inside the courtroom for the first time, an official said.~~
Aung San Suu Kyi

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi shakes hands with a diplomat in this image taken from TV in Yangon on Wednesday May 20, 2009. The military regime opened her trial briefly to reporters and diplomats on Wednesday. (AP Photo)

Yangon, Burma (Myanmar) (AP) – Burma’s government went back to barring reporters and diplomats from Aung San Suu Kyi's trial on Thursday, a day after briefly allowing them inside the courtroom for the first time, an official said.

It was unclear whether the junta would again reopen the proceedings. A government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists told The Associated Press that reporters and diplomats would be barred Thursday.

The Nobel Peace laureate, who has been in detention without trial for more than 13 of the past 19 years, is accused of violating the terms of her house arrest after an American man stayed at her home without official permission. The offense is punishable by up to five years' imprisonment.

After closing the hearings for the first two days, the authorities unexpectedly opened them on Wednesday to 10 journalist and dozens of diplomats. Suu Kyi thanked diplomats for their support and told them she hoped to see them during "better days.

The diplomats said she seemed "spirited" and in good health and one described her courtroom appearance on Wednesday as "awe-inspiring."

Three diplomats later met her at the guest house where she is being held in Insein Prison but they refused to provide details of those discussions.

But diplomats said they had not changed their opinion of the trial simply because they had been allowed to attend. Most assume the special court in Yangon's Insein Prison will find Suu Kyi guilty.

"The access we had today was welcome, but doesn't change the fundamental reality," British Ambassador Mark Canning told the British Broadcasting Corp., referring to the belief that Suu Kyi is being unfairly held and tried. "All the paraphernalia of the courtroom was there, the judges, the prosecution, the defense. But I think this is a story where the conclusion is already scripted."

Critics say the bizarre charge of hosting an uninvited foreign intruder is part of a plot by the military regime to keep the 63-year-old Suu Kyi locked up during elections scheduled for next year. Her National League for Democracy won the last election in 1990 by a landslide but the military refused to allow the party to take power.

Suu Kyi is standing trial with two female members of her party –  her sole companions under house arrest –  and John W. Yettaw, the American who swam to her lakeside home under the cover of darkness earlier this month.

Aung Zaw, editor of The Irrawaddy, an online magazine published by exiled Burmese journalists in Thailand, said he believed that court's allowing journalists and diplomats to view proceedings Wednesday was tied to the junta's attempts to manipulate international opinion.

He noted previous occasions when the junta seemed to make concessions to the pro-democracy movement, only to back away from them when the world's attention turned elsewhere.