Not much is known about the American man, John Yettaw, accused of swimming across a lake to visit Myanmar's leading democracy advocate. The World's Matthew Bell reports.
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LISA MULLINS: That American man who apparently sparked the developments is John Yettaw. He's reported to be a 53 year-old man from Falcon, Missouri. But as The World's Matthew Bell reports, not much more is known about him or his motives.
MATTHEW BELL: According to a state-run newspaper in Myanmar, John Yettaw reached Aung San Suu Kyi's compound by swimming two miles across a lake. He was aided by an empty water bottle as a flotation device, and what looks like a pair of home made flippers. The paper said he stayed over at least one night, and then he was apprehended trying to swim back the way he came. The U.S. official was able to meet with Yettaw for a few minutes and he's said to be in good health and good spirits. Burmese authorities charged Yettaw with breaking immigration and security laws. Suu Kyi herself reported never invited the man to her home. She also asked him to leave but let him stay because he complained about being tired and hungry after the swim. Her lawyer is quoted as describing Yettaw as a fool. Brian Joseph is an expert on Southeast Asia at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington. Joseph says he doesn't know much about Yettaw, though he thinks the lawyer's assessment sounds about right.
BRIAN JOSEPH: He's probably a fool and I think that's a safe assumption that to swim across the lake to the only, in a sense to break into the only Nobel Peace Laureate in the world who's under detention as a well known fact is irrational.
BELL: Joseph says if Yettaw thought he was trying to help Suu Kyi by visiting her in person, he's made a big mistake.
JOSEPH: She has always been accused of being an agent and a puppet of the West doing other countries' bidding. Why anyone would sneak into her compound would put her in simply greater risk. Why an American would do anything. He didn't offer her any protection or guidance or sustenance, it strikes me as completely nonsensical. In fact, it would be counter productive.
BELL: A Burmese opposition magazine based in Thailand said Yettaw told Burmese exiles he was working on a faith based book about heroism. David Steinberg of Georgetown University has been studying and visiting the country formerly known as Burma for 50 years. Steinberg says Yettaw might have been drawn there for the same reasons other activists have been and that's the desire to take a moral stand on human rights.
DAVID STEINBERG: It attracts a lot of people who want to do something in that country, who feel passionately about the need for activism.
BELL: The few Western activists arrested in Myanmar have spent a short time in detention before being deported. Aung San Suu Kyi, on the other hand, has spent much of the last 20 years in prison or under house arrest. For The World, I'm Matthew Bell.