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Suu Kyi trial resumes as spotlight leaves Burma

It picked up again one day after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for the democracy leader's release at a summit in Thailand.

By Carol HuangAsia editor / July 24, 2009



The trial of Aung San Suu Kyi resumed Friday after several weeks of on-and-off delays, with the defense presenting its closing arguments in a courtroom closed to reporters.

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The holdup may have been intended to help the government of Burma (Myanmar) lay low during a time of international attention – including at a regional summit this week, held next door in Thailand and attended by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Not that any of the high-profile criticism since the trial began in May appears to be deterring Burma’s junta from bringing this trial toward its widely expected end: a guilty verdict for the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and a sentence of up to five more years in prison.

Trial seen as political ploy

Many analysts see the trial as a ploy to keep the democracy leader out of elections scheduled for next year.

Even Ms. Suu Kyi's lawyers sometimes seem resigned to losing their case, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“We have the law on our side, but we don't know if the judges are on our side,” lawyer Kyi Wynn was quoted as saying in a Burmese exile newspaper, the Irrawaddy.

Suu Kyi is charged with violating the terms of her house arrest by briefly hosting an American who swam to her house in May, claiming he was "on a mission from God." (The man, John Yettaw, is also on trial. Read about him here.)

The prosecution is to give its closing arguments Monday.

Global leaders have little influence

High-profile pleas for Suu Kyi's release over the past month have not appeared to sway the Burmese government.

“Demanding release of Daw Suu Kyi means showing reckless disregard for the law," said an editorial in the state-run English-language newspaper, New Light of Myanmar.

When United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon visited the country in early July, his request to visit the defendant was denied. So, of course, was his call for Suu Kyi's release.

On Thursday in Thailand, Secretary Clinton also urged Suu Kyi's release, even offering a possible increase in US investment if she were freed. (Read more about her trip to Thailand here.)

An opinion piece in the Irrawaddy said the junta would certainly pay attention to the US diplomat’s words: “It’s unlikely the generals will follow-up on Clinton’s offer, even though they are listening carefully."

Listening, perhaps, but not enticed: The trial resumed the next day.

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