YANGON – Army-ruled Myanmar will open the trial of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday, diplomats said, when the Nobel Peace laureate is expected to take the stand in a case that has drawn international outrage.
Speculation that the trial may end soon intensified on Monday after prosecutors dropped nine remaining witnesses against 63-year-old Suu Kyi, who faces up to five years in jail.
Suu Kyi's current house arrest order expires on Wednesday, and the Nobel laureate is widely expected to be found guilty on charges of violating her detention after allowing an uninvited American intruder to stay in her home.
Since they canceled the nine remaining witnesses, Aung San Suu Kyi will be heard tomorrow, her lawyer Nyan Win told reporters after Monday's session inside Yangon's tightly-guarded Insein prison.
Diplomats and Burmese journalists working for national and foreign media in Yangon will be allowed inside the special court on Tuesday for a second time since the trial began on May 18.
We have been told to gather at the prison at 7:30 a.m., one Asian diplomat told Reuters.
The West has condemned the trial as a sham to keep the charismatic leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in detention until after 2010 elections. Suu Kyi has been incarcerated for more than 13 of the past 19 years.
The regime insists her trial will proceed fairly according to the law. But diplomats who were given a brief glimpse of the trial last week said it appeared scripted.
It could be they have already written the verdict, said Nyan Win, who will submit a list of defense witnesses to the court on Tuesday.
STOP MEDDLING, SAYS JUNTA
John Yettaw, the 53-year-old American who swam to Suu Kyi's home on May 4 because he had a dream that her life was in danger, told his lawyers on Monday that he wanted to change his plea to guilty, Nyan Win said.
Yettaw is charged with immigration violations, illegal swimming and breaking a draconian security law that protects the state from subversive elements.
Suu Kyi and her two female housemates are charged with violating the conditions of her house arrest under the same security law. They have pleaded not guilty.
Myanmar's generals have ignored international condemnation and threats of new sanctions. But they lashed out at neighbor Thailand on Sunday, accusing Bangkok of meddling in its affairs.
The subject of their wrath was Thailand's statement on behalf of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which includes Myanmar, that the trial threatened the regime's honor and credibility.
A statement broadcast on Sunday night and printed in junta mouthpieces on Monday said Thailand's communique deviated from the principles of the ASEAN Charter and is tantamount to interfering in the internal affairs of Myanmar.
Speaking to reporters in Hanoi where Myanmar was discussed on the sidelines of an Asia-Europe meeting, Thai foreign minister Kasit Piromya said the statement would not be withdrawn.
He said ASEAN wanted national reconciliation in Myanmar and the junta's promised elections next year to be inclusive.
That means releasing all political prisoners and Daw Suu Kyi to make the election legitimate, said Kasit.