Reporters 'can cover Burma trial'



Aung San Suu Kyi is being held at the Insein prison in Rangoon

Officials in Burma have unexpectedly announced that a group of journalists will be able to cover the trial of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Diplomats will also be allowed to observe the trial, in what a BBC correspondent says is a rare concession to world opinion.
International leaders have criticised the trial, which opened behind closed doors on Monday amid tight security.

Aung San Suu Kyi is charged with breaking the terms of her house arrest.
The pro-democracy leader, who is 63 and in frail health, has been in detention without being charged for more than 13 of the past 19 years.
Ms Suu Kyi's latest period of detention was scheduled to expire on 27 May, and many observers see the case as a pretext to ensure she is still in detention during next year's elections.
She is currently being held and tried at the notorious Insein prison in Rangoon.

Condemnation
A Burmese official was quoted by AFP news agency as saying 10 journalists from local and foreign news organisations would be able "to get news from the trial" on Wednesday afternoon but that photos and video footage would still be banned.

Embassies were informed that they could send one official - a change from the situation on Monday, when several European diplomats tried to enter the trial but were denied access.
The ambassadors of Thailand, Singapore and Russia would also be allowed to meet Ms Suu Kyi after Wednesday's hearing, unnamed diplomatic sources were quoted as saying.

The BBC's South East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head says that holding the hearings in secret, inside the country's top-security prison, has provoked particular condemnation.

On Tuesday South East Asian leaders expressed "grave concern" about the trial.
The statement from the Asean group warned that the "honour and credibility" of Burma's government were at stake.

Ms Suu Kyi, along with two female assistants, is accused of violating the terms of her house arrest after a US man, John Yettaw, swam to her lakeside home earlier this month.
Mr Yettaw is also facing charges.

The government plans to call 22 witnesses to support its case.
Five have already testified that Mr Yettaw swam across the lake that backs onto Ms Suu Kyi's home, and was arrested as he left, after being allowed to stay two nights.

Ms Suu Kyi's lawyer has argued that he was uninvited, and was only allowed to stay after pleading exhaustion from his midnight swim.
Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party won democratic elections in 1990, but the military never allowed the party to govern.

AUNG SAN SUU KYI
1988: Military junta comes to power after crushing pro-democracy uprising
1989: Martial law declared; opposition NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi put under house arrest
1990: NLD wins elections; result rejected by the ruling junta
1995: Suu Kyi released from house arrest, but movements restricted
Sept 2000: Put under house arrest again when she tried to defy travel restrictions
May 2002: Released unconditionally
May 2003: Detained after clash between NLD and government forces
Sept 2003: Allowed home after operation, but under effective house arrest. In the years since, the orders for her detention periodically renewed

Profile: Aung San Suu Kyi
Inside Burma's Insein prison

BBC News