Christian Council Demands Release of Aung San Suu Kyi

A Christian council has condemned the closed-door trial of Nobel Prize-winning peace activist Aung San Suu Kyi who was accused of breaching the terms of her house arrest by permitting a foreigner stay overnight without "state approval".

Suu Kyi was charged last week after an American, John W. Yettaw, swam across a lake to her property, which the Myanmar's military government says has violated terms of her house arrest.

The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) said it condemned the arrest and demands the immediate release of the peace activist.

The council also appealed to the Indian government to step in efforts to free Suu Kyi. "As the world's largest democratic country, India should stand in support of democracy in Burma. Additionally India is in a position to use its economic leverage and geographical location to push hard for the freedom of Ms Suu Kyi," it noted.

GCIC hopes the pro-democracy leader can at least celebrate her birthday on 19 June. "The onus is on the international community and Indian government to help her to celebrate her next birth day as a free citizen of Burma."

Suu Kyi, who was to be freed on May 27 following six years of her house arrest, with fresh charges might face a penalty of another five years of imprisonment. Suu Kyi's supporters, meanwhile, say the new charges were aimed at keeping the 63-year-old activist imprisoned until general elections in 2010.

Suu Kyi has spent most of the last 19 years under house arrest for opposing the military regime and demanding a democratic rule.

The United States, United Nations, Britain, France and other western countries has also voiced concern over the trial that began on Monday.

"I deplore Ms Suu Kyi's ongoing persecution, and call for her immediate and unconditional release," said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to which Burma also belongs, expressed "grave concern" in its first official reaction on the trial.

"Thailand, as the ASEAN Chair, expresses grave concern about recent developments relating to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, given her fragile health," the statement said.

"The Government of the Union of Myanmar, as a responsible member of ASEAN, has the responsibility to protect and promote human rights."

"With the eyes of the international community on Myanmar at present, the honour and the credibility of the Government of the Union of Myanmar are at stake," the statement cautioned.