Myanmar: American's release hailed while pressure to release Suu Kyi continues

Updated On: Aug 18, 2009

The US welcomed the release of an American man jailed for the violation of the house arrest terms of Myanmar's opposition leader. John Yettaw was sentenced to seven years of hard labour for swimming uninvited to the home of the Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, but was freed during a high-profile visit by US senator Jim Webb to Myanmar late last week.

President Obama appreciated "this decision by the Burmese government" to release Yettaw. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also welcomed "the release of Mr Yettaw on humanitarian grounds".

But Suu Kyi, who has been under detention for 14 years, was sentenced to a further 18 months of house arrest for Yettaw's act. She criticised the military government's double standard on Monday.

"The fact that the person who entered the house was released whereas residents of the house remained detained is ugly," Nyan Win, her lawyer, quoted her as saying.

Phillip Crowley, a US state department spokesman, said Yettaw's release could not be seen as an indication that Myanmar was embracing change.

"We remain very concerned about the continued detainment of Aung San Suu Kyi and more than 2,100 prisoners that are in detention,'' Crowley told reporters.

During his visit last week, Webb met Senior General Than Shwe, Myanmar's military chief, and visited Aung San Suu Kyi at a guest house. Ban met Than Shwe on a visit to the country's capital Naypyidaw last month, but was not allowed to meet Aung San Suu Kyi.

Myanmar state television said Yettaw, who was held for three months during his joint trial with Aung San Suu Kyi, was freed on humanitarian grounds because of his poor health. He suffers from diabetes and was hospitalised for a week during the trial after suffering seizures.

On Sunday, Webb arrived with Yettaw in Bangkok, where he has been receiving medical care.


Myanmar calls U.S. senator's visit a success, 18 August 2009,


Obama welcomes release of US citizen from Myanmar, 18 August 2009,


Myanmar gets US praise and pressure, 18 August 2009,


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