Burmese pro-democracy leader on trial

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MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman. This is The World. Today, in Myanmar it was day three in the trial of Burmese Pro-Democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. Unlike the first two days, this trial session was open to a handful of foreign diplomats and journalists. Myanmar's military rulers made the concession after much international condemnation of the trial. Aung San Suu Kyi has spent about 13 of the past 19 years in detention. Prosecutors say she violated the terms of her house arrest earlier this month, after an American man swam across a lake to arrive uninvited at Suu Kyi's home. Mark Canning, the British Ambassador to Myanmar, was one of those allowed into the courtroom today. He says he was surprised when he saw Aung San Suu Kyi.

MARK CANNING: I thought she looked remarkably good considering what she's been through over the last few years. She was ramrod straight, crackling with energy, dignified, composed, commanding her defense team, and almost projecting an aura of a lantern. So I thought she looked very good. She was good. Towards the end of the proceedings, she came across to us and thanked us for being there and said that she hoped we could meet again in better times. So given the circumstances, I thought she looked pretty good.

WERMAN: Does she convey the same aplomb and dignity in person that we seem to sense in pictures?

CANNING: My impression was yes. I mean, she's got a great presence about her, great dignity, great bearing. She exudes authority. I was very interested to look around the courtroom and see a lot of prison guards sort of defending the windows, you know, trying to catch a look at her. And this actually reflects the reality that is often lost. She still commands immense affection and respect across the Burmese population, and I would also suggest among a considerable number of people that work for the Burmese regime. So she remains a towering figure. There is no doubt about it and you could sense some of that from seeing her today.

WERMAN: Did you hear any more details about the charges? I mean, is it really still simply about this eccentric American John William Yettaw and his illegal visit to her under house arrest?

CANNING: Yes, she's being charged under what's called Section 22 of the State Protection Act and she has been charged with infringing the conditions of her house arrest by virtue of the fact that is alleged to have admitted Mr. Yettaw, and that carries a potential sentence of up to five years. I think my overall impression was that the court looked superficially normal but, of course, this is a story that has the final chapter pre-scripted, I would suggest.

WERMAN: And that final chapter you believe will be what?

CANNING: Well, what this is all about is the 2010 elections, and it seems to me that the authorities have seized on the intrusion of this individual into the lady's compound. And this has allowed them, I think, an excuse, a device, to prolong the period of her house arrest because you know her current period of house arrest was due to expire in a very short while at the end of May. So this in a sense was a gift. It potentially allows them to extend that in a quasi-legal fashion.

WERMAN: Is that the same view of the British government.

CANNING: It's very much the view of the British government that this trial should not be happening, and it's welcome that we got access today. But, you know, it does nothing to address the fundamental issue of her detention, and the detention of the 2,000 other political presidents who were held in Bellham.

WERMAN: Mark Canning, the British Ambassador to Myanmar was at the trial of Aung Sun Suu Kyi today. Thank you very much for your time, sir.

CANNING: Well, thank you. You're welcome.