Wednesday, May 27, 2009
THE LADY TESTIFIES
esterday Aung San Suu Kyi was permitted to testify in her own defence for the first time since her trial opened ten days ago. On May 15 she was taken from her home where she had been confined for the past six years (following the Burmese junta's last attempt on her life in May 2003 in a mob attack on her convoy). She was delivered to Insein Prison, charged with meeting an illegal intruder on her property, and has since been held at a special quarters within the prison. The trial began the following Monday, May 18 in a specially-built courtroom also within the prison.
Today her term of home detention expires. In truth it expired on May 27 last year, but at that time the junta illegally extended it for a year longer than is permitted by their own laws. The military rulers must have now run out of excuses (they always like some sort of quasi-legal cover for their lawlessness), and couldn't reuse whichever fig-leaf they hid behind last time. The Lady's house arrest is really over.
One of her lawyers, Nyan Win, told Mizzima that Police Brigadier General Myo Thein, along with Burma’s Police Chief Khin Yi, on Tuesday morning read out an order removing restrictions imposed on Aung San Suu Kyi under her former sentence of house arrest.It would be nice to believe the junta is beginning to grow up at last, but I don't think so. Even the claim that they were considering her release earlier this month, but were so rudely interrupted by the loon who swam into her compound, is disingenuous. This announcement points to only one thing, which many Burma-watchers have already taken for granted: the verdict is guilty (and has probably already been delivered to the judge).
Than Shwe has more than likely been making extra offerings to whichever spirits he was appeasing in early May. The American intruder, John Yettaw, was a godsend for the ageing and increasingly demented dictator, who is most well known for his extreme superstitions. There is no plausible scenario which could have led to a brand new term of detention or imprisonment for Suu Kyi, given that she was absolutely isolated from outside contact, except this one. There was no possibility for her to break the conditions of her detention. An intruder was required.
There is no evidence that Yettaw was encouraged to pull his stupid stunt by any of the plentiful undercover state intelligence agents working in Rangoon, many of whom can probably be extremely personable and earnest fellows wishing to practice their English. The fact that he pulled the same stunt in November last year (on that occasion she had no contact with him, thanks to her living companions); the fact that he then successfully swam the lake for his escape; and the fact that his intrusion was reported by Suu Kyi to the authorities who then took no action to beef up their security around her home — none of these facts should make anyone suspicious. Of course not.
As she testified yesterday and today, the intrusion was caused by poor government security, for which she had no responsibility.
"Even though the main cause of the situation that has happened is a lack of, or a breach of security [at my house], no action was taken on those responsible for the security," Suu Kyi told the court.Burma's soldier-government is not known for its understanding of logic. She was a prisoner, her home was her prison. Prisoners have guards to keep them from getting away. If some kook breaks into the prison, whom shall we blame? The prisoner sitting in her cell? How about the sleeping guards outside?
"But only I am under prosecution and such an act is unjust."
She may have played into the junta's hand by not immediately reporting the intruder, but I wonder how she might have done that. When she wished to tell something to the authorities, the only way was to pass the message through her personal doctor, who came on regular visits. She is allowed no phone, and can't even send mail. But the doctor had already been (conveniently?) arrested by the police. I'm not making accusations, just rolling my eyes a bit over here.
A nice anecdote from yesterday's "court" session, at which some diplomats and journalists were permitted, is offered by the account in Mizzima News. Usually one should stand as a sign of respect for the judge...
Diplomats and other invited guests stood up as a sign of respect as she entered the courtroom, prompting security personnel to remind them to sit down.The Irrawaddy has a fuller account of yesterday's testimony by Suu Kyi here, and today's testimony here.
If there can be said to be one thing that is exemplified by The Lady (Burmese for years have referred to her this way, or simply as "Aunty" due to the risks in actually saying her name out loud in public), that one thing is Freedom From Fear. From her book of the same name:
Via The Interdependent I learn of a new documentary film about The Lady and her country. Here's a sample of how it looks:"It is not power that corrupts, but fear.
Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it."
[note: I use this version as the picture is much sharper than the YouTube one. It's also a little wider, so if your browser window is too narrow and there's nothing below this, please scroll down past the sidebar and you'll see it.]