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Asia-Pacific
Myanmar gets US praise and pressure
White House welcomes release of US man but urges that Aung San Suu Kyi be freed too.
Last Modified: 18 Aug 2009 05:24 GMT

Myanmar said Yettaw was released on
humanitarian grounds [AFP]

The US has welcomed Myanmar's move to release an American man jailed for his role in violating the house arrest terms of the country's detained opposition leader.

But the White House also urged the military government "to release all the political prisoners it is holding in detention or in house arrest, including Aung San Suu Kyi".

John Yettaw was sentenced to seven years in jail with hard labour for swimming uninvited to the home of the Nobel peace laureate, but was freed during a high-profile visit by Jim Webb, a US senator, to Myanmar late last week.

The White House said Barack Obama, the US president, appreciated "this decision by the Burmese government" to release Yettaw and Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, welcomed "the release of Mr Yettaw on humanitarian grounds".

'Ugly' decision

But Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under detention for 14 of the last 20 years and was sentenced to a further 18 months of house arrest for Yettaw's stunt, 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.

In depth


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Profiles:

 Aung San Suu Kyi
 
Suu Kyi's uninvited guest

Phillip Crowley, a US state department spokesman, said Yettaw's release could not be seen as an indication that Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, 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 on Monday.

"We'll be looking for signs that Burma's fundamentally changing its approach and its policies."
 
During his visit last week, Webb met Senior General Than Shwe, Myanmar's military chief, before visiting Aung San Suu Kyi at a guest house.

Ban welcomed Webb's "engagement with Myanmar's leaders as well as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi towards a peaceful, united, democratic Myanmar", his spokeswoman, Marie Okabe, said on Monday.

Ban himself 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 in a Myanmar jail 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.

"Our first priority is ensuring the health of Mr Yettaw," Cynthia Brown, a US embassy spokeswoman in the Thai capital, said.

Source:
Agencies
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