Suu Kyi’s ‘Houseguest’ Accused of Dissident Links

YANGON ~ Myanmar’s junta said Thursday that an American man on trial for swimming to the house of Aung San Suu Kyi had links with exile groups in Thailand, apparently toughening its stance ahead of a visit by a UN envoy.

American John Yettaw, a devout Mormon and US military veteran, has told the trial that he was on a mission from God to warn the Nobel laureate after having a vision that she would be assassinated.

But on Thursday the military-ruled nation’s police chief for the first time Thursday named top dissidents with whom Yettaw had allegedly met before making the first of two visits to Suu Kyi’s lakeside residence.

Aung San Suu Kyi is also on trial for allegedly breaching the terms of her house arrest, over what she says were uninvited visits by Yettaw. Both face up to five years in jail.

The junta rolled out the allegations a day before UN troubleshooter Ibrahim Gambari was due to visit Myanmar to lay the groundwork for a planned visit by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

“According to concrete information, during Mr Yettaw’s stay in Thailand he met with some people from illegal organisations,” police chief Khin Yee told a hastily-arranged press conference at the interior ministry in Yangon.

He said that Yettaw had met Bo Kyi, co-founder of leading activist group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners of Burma, while he was staying in the Thai border town of Mae Sot in September-October 2008.

Bo Kyi spent seven years in jail following a failed student uprising in 1988 and is an outspoken critic of Myanmar’s military regime.

The police chief named eight other top dissidents whom Yettaw had allegedly met while in Thailand. Reports in exile magazines have previously said that Yettaw was in the neighbouring country at around the same time.

“It’s a thing to consider – what kind of person or organizations supported Mr John William Yettaw to stay… in Thailand and Myanmar for many months using much money although he has no regular job and income,” Khin Yee said.

“There might be some people, such as a planner or instructor or supporter behind the scenes. We are still investigating who or which organisation,” he added.

The regime last month said Yettaw’s visits to Aung San Suu Kyi’s house were organised by “anti-government elements” and that he was a “secret agent or her boyfriend”, but has not yet given details of the alleged links.

The trial at Yangon’s notorious Insein prison has heard that Yettaw walked through a drain to briefly visit her house in November 2008 but only left a copy of the “Book of Mormon” and did not see her.

Then in May he swam across a lake to the house and stayed there for two nights.

UN chief Ban and Gambari have been trying to persuade Myanmar’s military regime to free all political detainees, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Nobel laureate has spent 13 of the past 19 years in detention since the ruling generals refused to recognise the landslide victory of her National League for Democracy (NLD) in 1990 elections.

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