The verdict was widely expected, but it was officially announced — after a delay on July 31 — early this afternoon, local time.
Myanmar’s imprisoned pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was pronounced guilty of violating the terms of her detention by allegedly harboring an American well-wisher, John Yettaw, who swam across a lake, uninvited, to her house in May.
Suu Kyi has already spent nearly 14 of the last 20 years under house arrest.
Today’s verdict: She will serve an additional 18 months of detention. This is, technically, a reduced term, as she was initially sentenced to three years of hard labor. (Five minutes after the verdict was announced, Myanmar’s Home Minister issued the reduced sentence.)
Critics will say that this apparent show of clemency amounts to a shrewd political move: Myanmar’s government, which has faced unwanted scrutiny since Yettaw’s strange activities in May, can now argue that they’ve treated Suu Kyi with leniency. And an additional year and a half of detention means that she will be unable to influence elections — dismissed by many as a sham designed to put a civilian face on a military dictatorship — scheduled for 2010.
Of course, activists note that the 64-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate should never have been arrested in the first place. And even if her initial detention were legitimate, surely the guards who were in charge of securing her house should be blamed for Yettaw’s intrusion.
Today I visited the Myanmar embassy here in Bangkok; it was quiet — business as usual. And I spoke with a Burmese activist who works with a group pushing for democracy in Burma. He said the trial verdict is a “slap in the face of the international community,” noting that many parties, over the years, have tried to engage with the government, but all efforts have failed. I also spoke with a representative of Amnesty International; his group has called the verdict “shameful,” and AI says the only resolution is the “immediate and unconditional release” of Suu Kyi.
Here are some additional news reports:
- AP: “Myanmar’s Suu Kyi returns to house arrest”
- Reuters: Myanmar’s Suu Kyi ordered back into house detention
- NY Times: “Pro-Democracy Leader in Myanmar Is Convicted”
- WSJ: “Suu Kyi Sentenced to 18 Months House Arrest” (And don’t miss their interactive timeline about Suu Kyi’s life.)