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US ‘fool’ at centre of Suu Kyi furore

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on May 15, 2009

ABC NEWS

John William Yettaw takes a photo of himself in a mirror

‘Weird character’: John William Yettaw takes a photo of himself in a mirror (AFP)

The middle-aged American blamed for landing Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in jail is said to be a Mormon and Vietnam War veteran with a deluded world view.

The little that is known about John William Yettaw, 53, suggests the Missouri native thought he was helping Ms Suu Kyi’s cause by swimming to her lakeside home and staying uninvited.

“We have to blame him,” the Nobel laureate campaigner’s chief lawyer Kyi Win said, after Burma’s military junta charged Ms Suu Kyi with breaching the terms of her house arrest.

“He is a fool,” the lawyer said.

The opposition newspaper Irrawady described Mr Yettaw as a “stalker” and the latest in a long line of naive Western protesters who have done more harm than good to Burma’s beleaguered democracy movement.

Mr Yettaw had told exiled Burma groups in Thailand that he was “working on a faith-based book on heroism,” it reported, and added: “He is simply a weird character who acted alone.”

In Washington, the US Campaign for Burma was similarly scathing.

“He’s just some guy who didn’t really think through his plan and the consequences it would have in trying to try to sneak on to her property,” the group’s advocacy director Jennifer Quigley said.

“We are just as surprised at the turn of events as everybody else is.”

There has been international criticism of the fresh charges brought against Ms Suu Kyi.

The State Department in Washington says that Burmese authorities allowed a US diplomat to visit Mr Yettaw in jail on Wednesday (local time).

But while condemning the regime’s latest actions against Ms Suu Kyi, the department has made no comment on Mr Yettaw.

He has been charged with breaking security and immigration law, according to another of Ms Suu Kyi’s lawyers.

The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper said that Mr Yettaw had confessed to arriving in Rangoon on a tourist visa on May 2. He then swam to the compound the following night “and secretly entered the house and stayed there.”

The newspaper said authorities confiscated his passport and a black haversack, torch, folding pliers, a camera, two $100 bills and some Burma currency notes.

Mr Yettaw took photographs of himself before his escapade, sporting home-made flippers for his swim across the lake. He is wearing a short-sleeved shirt and looks heavy-set.

State media said he spent two days at the house before security forces plucked him from the water as he left at dawn on Wednesday. Ms Suu Kyi’s lawyers insisted that she had pleaded with him to leave, but took pity on him.

Burma officials said that he was also believed to have visited the house in November-December 2008.

According to the reports from Burma, Mr Yettaw comes from Falcon, Missouri and was studying psychology. He is said to be married with one daughter. A son died two years ago, Time magazine said.

He was reportedly an adherent of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and served in Vietnam. He would have been about 19 when Saigon fell to communist forces in 1975.

AFP

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