Missouri Man Swims Lake, Alters Course of Myanmar Politics

May 18, 2009 at 3:19 pm
Aung San Suu Kyi - Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Aung San Suu Kyi
A lot of us admire Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. John William Yettaw admires Daw Aung San Suu Kyi a lot.

Aung San Suu Kyi should be prime minister of Myanmar. Her party, the National League for Democracy, won the Burmese general election in 1990. Unfortunately, the military government which had been in power since 1962 refused to go quietly. Instead, its leaders put Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest.

She has remained a prisoner for thirteen of the past nineteen years. Almost no one has seen her, not even her husband or children. Her latest house arrest was due to expire next week, in time for next year's general election, the first since 1990.

But then Yettaw just had to go pay her a visit and screw everything up.

View Larger Map

Yettaw is 53 and hails from Falcon, Missouri, about halfway between Rolla and Springfield. Says The New York Times:
A neighbor of Mr. Yettaw's in Falcon, Michael Assel, described him as quiet, helpful and intelligent, someone who pitched in at the annual block party but shied away from small talk.
The Times also reports that Yettaw is a devout Mormon and is, according to members of the Burmese exile community in Thailand, working on "a faith-based book on heroism."

Aung San Suu Kyi, though a Theravada Buddhist, not a Mormon, seemed as likely a subject as any.

So Yettaw decided to pay her a visit. Obviously, he couldn't just knock on her door, so he resorted to more stealthy measures, like swimming across the lake and camping out on the grounds of her house. He'd pulled this before; last November, he left her a Bible.

This time he got caught.

Now the Burmese military junta has charged Aung San Suu Kyi with violating the terms of her house arrest, even though Yettaw was an intruder, not an invited guest, and she had even considered turning him into the police, but decided not to, out of pity.

Thanks to Yettaw, Aung San Suu Kyi now faces up to five more years imprisonment, which would effectively shut her out of next year's election.

Yettaw, meanwhile, faces charges of violating immigration laws and entering a restricted zone charges which carry penalties of one and five years, respectively.

All hail John William Yettaw, the pride of Missouri.