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Myanmar warns against protests ahead of Suu Kyi verdict

Military-ruled Myanmar’s state media warned citizens against inciting protests as the country awaited a verdict in the trial of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

world Updated: Jul 30, 2009 14:00 IST

Military-ruled Myanmar’s state media on Thursday warned citizens against inciting protests as the country awaited a verdict in the trial of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The New Light of Myanmar newspaper, in a comment piece ahead of the judgement due on Friday, cautioned against anti-government factions, saying that “we have to ward off subversive elements and disruptions”.

“Look out if some arouse the people to take to the streets to come to power. In reality they are anti-democracy elements, not pro-democracy activists,” the English-language article said.

Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi faces up to five years in jail when the prison court delivers its verdict on charges that she breached the terms of her house arrest by sheltering an American intruder who swam to her house.

Security has been tight for all the hearings, with memories still fresh in Myanmar of massive anti-junta protests led by Buddhist monks in 2007 which ended in a bloody crackdown.

A conviction is widely expected in the two-and-a-half-month trial, which has sparked international outrage. It has been repeatedly delayed as the junta fended off criticism and calls for the release of Suu Kyi.

The opposition icon’s lawyer said on Thursday that her legal team hoped she would go free but offered few other comments on the impending decision.

“We are just waiting for tomorrow. I hope Daw Suu will be released according to the law,” said Nyan Win, who is also a spokesman for her National League for Democracy (NLD). Daw is a term of respect in Burmese.

Critics say the trial is a ploy by the regime to keep Suu Kyi locked up until after elections scheduled for 2010. She has already spent almost 14 of the last 20 years in detention.

The New Light of Myammar editorial said “people who are serving their prison terms do not have the right to vote or to stand for election”.

The newspaper also launched an apparent attack on the NLD, which won the country’s last elections in 1990 but was prevented from taking power by the ruling generals.

It said that “a handful of politicians with excessive greed, anger and conceit are troubling the people, and millions of people are impoverished. The people... are waiting for the time they mend their ways”.

The article denied that the military government was “power-craving,” saying it would not have called the elections next year or held a referendum on the constitution in 2008 if that was the case.

The referendum was held just days after a cyclone devastated the south of the country, killing 138,000 people.

On Wednesday the newspaper warned against predictions of a guilty verdict in the trial and said that anticipating the ruling would amount to contempt of court.

Fears that Suu Kyi will be jailed are proving too much for some of the female supporters in her party, who said they had wept when the court announced on Tuesday that it would deliver a judgement this week.

“We cried as we feel really sorry for her in our heart. But we will remember her words that we should ‘hope for the best and prepare for the worst´,” Aye Aye Mar, a senior NLD member, told AFP.

“Our leader is always thinking for the benefit of the country. Although we know that the truth will come out one day, we can’t do anything apart from pray for her release.”

John Yettaw, the US national who sparked the trial by swimming to her house, and two female assistants who lived with Suu Kyi are also on trial and face similar charges.

Yettaw has said that he embarked on his mission to warn Suu Kyi of a vision that she would be assassinated, while the opposition leader herself has said she did not report him to the authorities for humanitarian reasons.