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Aung San Suu Kyi arrested after her home was invaded by an American
May 14, 2009 11:18 AM   Subscribe

Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese (Myanmar) activist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, was arrested after her home was invaded by Vietnam War veteran and Mormon evangelist. John William Yettaw swam to her compound May 3 and was arrested two days later on his way back. Suu Kyi has spent 13 of the last 20 years under house arrest, and she was supposed to finally be freed May 27. She will go on trial for the illegal visitor on Monday; if convicted, she could face up to five years in prison.
posted by dejah420 (50 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
This guy is CIA, right? I mean, apparently the US intelligence service owes the Burmese junta some kind of favor.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:23 AM on May 14, 2009


You know, that was my first thought too. I can't imagine this is anything but a stunt to keep her from being released in 2 weeks. I mean, I hate to be the tin-foil hat girl...but yeah...Spook was my first thought.
posted by dejah420 at 11:26 AM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nutty christians - is there anything that they can't make worse?
posted by 2sheets at 11:27 AM on May 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by chillmost at 11:27 AM on May 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


Good use of the Yettaw tag.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:30 AM on May 14, 2009


I hate proselytizers. Dealing with them is always an issue. They think only of themselves.
posted by QIbHom at 11:32 AM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Couldn't he have been happy just evangelizing the local population?
posted by Leezie at 11:38 AM on May 14, 2009


I think most Mormons would consider 5 years for the chance to hear the "Truth" a good trade, assuming she converts. If she doesn't convert then they wouldn't care what happens to her.
posted by RussHy at 11:41 AM on May 14, 2009


Needless to say, the possibility of CIA malfeasance must always be seriously considered. But as a Salt Lake City resident, I would point out that we also shouldn't underestimate the relentlessness of Mormon evangelists.

If Laureate Kyi should die in her Burmese prison, the friendly folks at the LDS Church will be happy to provide her with a post-mortem baptism.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:43 AM on May 14, 2009


This is so strange.
posted by Pants! at 11:47 AM on May 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


For the record, there are a lot of reports listing Yettaw's name as being spelled "Yeattaw", so I've added that tag as well. He also seems to have a mostly unused travel-blog under the name John7children, with just a few pictures of the Great Wall. Someone with that same name on ebay recently purchased a couple of cell phones without contracts, a camera phone that looks to be the same model that shot the pictures of himself wearing the flippers he used to get to Mrs. Kyi's house, and a breathing trainer.
posted by dejah420 at 11:49 AM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can we focus less on the "Americans/Christians are assholes" side and focus a bit more on the "Junta are assholes" side? Although I am one to jump on the former's bandwagon, the real group that's causing this is the government looking for an excuse.

Previously, Previousl, Previous, Previou, Previo, Previ, Prev, Pre, Pr, P .
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:49 AM on May 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


John Rambo?
posted by furtive at 11:53 AM on May 14, 2009


Can we focus less on the "Americans/Christians are assholes" side and focus a bit more on the "Junta are assholes" side?

There's more filthy assholes in this thread than a proctology convention!
posted by Pollomacho at 11:54 AM on May 14, 2009


What an arrogant interfering prick.
posted by aramaic at 11:56 AM on May 14, 2009


Can we focus less on the "Americans/Christians are assholes" side and focus a bit more on the "Junta are assholes" side? Although I am one to jump on the former's bandwagon,

Well, that guy is an asshole.
posted by delmoi at 12:02 PM on May 14, 2009


The story just keeps getting weirder:

Apparently, John and his first wife divorced, and he got custody of their 6 kids. He remarried, to a woman named Betty, but reportedly, Betty wouldn't let the first wife's kids live in her house, so those four kids, ranging in age from 17 to 10) lived in a trailer in the woods. John apparently just left the kids there alone when he went to Asia.

Very odd, indeed. (As a snarky aside, what sort of evil stepmother refuses to let the first wife's kids live in her house? And what sort of man marries a woman who makes his kids live in a trailer in the woods? I mean, wtf?)
posted by dejah420 at 12:20 PM on May 14, 2009 [6 favorites]


If this were on TV or in a movie, I'd roll my eyes and go "yeah right." Since this is reality, my mind wants to explode.
posted by evening at 12:28 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Jeez, from the research done here in an hour, it looks like Metafilter could do the CIA's job for them.

Johnny Yettaw should have chosen a different point to break the law. But I bet 100% pure adrenaline courses through his veins.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:30 PM on May 14, 2009


And what sort of man marries a woman who makes his kids live in a trailer in the woods?

Apparently the kind which goes to Myanmar to invade a generally respected pro-democracy activist's house, ostensibly to convert her to Mormonism, but thereby giving the local military junta another excuse to keep her under house arrest?

This incident has all kinds of wrong all over it.

In any case, while she might have been supposed to be freed on 27 May, given the junta's history, who knows? Maybe THEY put John up to it.
posted by WalterMitty at 12:30 PM on May 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


First the Mormons pull a Prop 8, and now this.

I'm getting tired of having to constantly deal with people who subscribe to the absurdity that Lewis Sinclair aptly called American fascism. Fuck the conservatives. Fuck the bots. All of them. Fuck 'em.
posted by kldickson at 12:38 PM on May 14, 2009


The story just keeps getting weirder:

You got that right.

The family belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Yvonne Yettaw said. She said it was unlikely he was there to proselytize for the church or convert the Nobel laureate.

John Yettaw is borderline diabetic and has asthma, but recently lost about 70 pounds, she said.

“He has asthma real bad, that’s why I’m surprised he swam so good,” she said.

posted by jonp72 at 12:57 PM on May 14, 2009


Maybe THEY put John up to it.

Yeah, before we start speculating about Mormon evangelical conspiracies, we might want to go with the simple explanation: he did it for the money, and the Burmese were more than willing to pay.
posted by jonp72 at 12:59 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Too bad there are no fabulous oil reserves under that Burma.
posted by Forrest Greene at 1:00 PM on May 14, 2009


WHAT. THE. FUCK. UNIVERSE?
posted by shmegegge at 1:00 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm passed believing in random events. Dollars to donuts the junta was behind this.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:05 PM on May 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Dollars to donuts the junta was behind this.

It does strike me as so far beyond explicable that someone had to be enabling, and even Joseph Smith knows very few have the capacity to do that inside Burma outside of the junta.

So while we're yarn-spinning, imagine SLORC detains this totally unhinged, conversion-obsessed Mormon dude trying to cross illegally from Thailand. They promise him like an hour to proselytize on national TV in exchange for some random bit of intelligence on Aung Sun Suu Kyi. Drop him at the shore, send him in with his flippers, show up to arrest her for "violating" her terms of house arrest a couple days later.

I mean, it's all kinds of convoluted, but nobody does convoluted like hardcore authoritarian police state apparatchiks, right?
posted by gompa at 1:18 PM on May 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


Actually, there are fabulous oil reserves under Burma, but:
a) the place is really close to China, geographically as well as diplomatically; and
b) the Pentagon isn't really itching to add a war in Southeast Asia, of all places, to all its current headaches...
posted by Skeptic at 1:19 PM on May 14, 2009


Jesus of the Americas wept.
posted by Jikido at 1:31 PM on May 14, 2009


the weirdest part about this to me is that after so many years of having her under house arrest the Junta never thought to guard the lake. Does this mean she could have just swam away whenever she wanted to? For a totalitarian regime that seems awful careless.
posted by nangua at 2:14 PM on May 14, 2009


somehow this must stand as a metaphor for US foreign policy...
posted by geos at 2:14 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sceptic actuallys, "...there are fabulous oil reserves under Burma..."

My mistake. Well, that might well partly explain the presence of the Junta. Or are they a Chinese-backed Junta?

Can't tell the players without a scorecard. Although I hesitate to make an assertion.
posted by Forrest Greene at 2:32 PM on May 14, 2009


Does this mean she could have just swam away whenever she wanted to?

She doesn't want to swim away, and they junta knows it. The two parties are locked in a kind of ceremonial dance. The junta can't just kill Suu Kyi without suffering international approbation, so it keeps her under house arrest. They would probably rather she just left, but she knows she's most powerful as a symbol in Burma, where she has to stay under house arrest.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:11 PM on May 14, 2009


Yeah, the Mormon evangelist angle makes no sense, and really isn't supported by the information in the articles. Anyone who reads the information linked to and concludes that "the Mormons are behind this!" has some real logic problems (or is just ridiculously gullible).

I have seen a whole lot of craziness when it comes to Mormon missionaries and the way that a 19-year-old kid can convince himself that people can be "converted." I have known a lot of non-missionary Mormons who, independent of their religious beliefs, were pretty "off." But this just doesn't make sense at all. He is not alleged to have been an actual Mormon missionary - just some guy who, according to an attorney, told someone that he was a Mormon on one occasion. The whole idea goes so far beyond even the craziest craziness that I've seen that I just don't buy it for a minute.

Initially, I was willing to believe that, maybe, this guy is technically a member of the Mormon church who is completely insane and decided that it was his duty to "spread the gospel." But no, that just doesn't make any sense, and is not supported by the evidence I've seen. It seems far more likely to me that, in a country (and most match this description) where Mormon missionaries have high visibility but are widely not understood, the excuse of "the guy was a Mormon missionary" is a very easy one for authorities to just put out there and have people generally believe.
posted by The World Famous at 3:37 PM on May 14, 2009




Too bad there are no fabulous oil reserves under that Burma.

But they do have fabulous natural gas reserves, much to Chevron's delight.
posted by homunculus at 3:59 PM on May 14, 2009


Did you know? Her husband died in 1999 in Oxford, England, of cancer. The junta refused to allow him to visit her, and she didn't leave Myanmar to visit him because of fears that the junta would not allow her back in once she'd left. They saw each other a total of 5 times from 1989, the year she was put under house arrest.

I think the junta would - as mr_roboto said - rather she just left. If they were honest, this swimming American invader is just a very convenient excuse for them to lengthen her sentence. FIVE years? Really?
posted by WalterMitty at 4:13 PM on May 14, 2009


note that at least according to the last link, the government is looking to extend her sentence five years AND remove her from her house to "the country’s most notorious jail."
posted by nangua at 6:04 PM on May 14, 2009


also, thanks mr. roboto educating me a bit.
posted by nangua at 6:06 PM on May 14, 2009


This guy's claim of being a Viet Nam vet is going to prove false. The numbers don't add up - his age 53 and the War in Viet Nam officially ending in 1975. It's highly unlikely but possible that he was in the military during the Viet Nam era. I'm willing to bet that once his story is checked he'll prove to be another nut job case of Stolen Valor.
posted by X4ster at 7:20 PM on May 14, 2009


Yettaw, 53, a Mormon who reportedly told Burmese exiles in Thailand he was writing a "faith-based" book on heroism.

Heroism: YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG
posted by hazel at 10:08 PM on May 14, 2009


X4ster - We were "officially" in Vietnam from 1959 until 1973. So yeah, assuming he was only there for the very tail end; the evacuation of the troops and diplomats, if he's 53 now, he could only have been 17 at the oldest. Good catch.

The World Famous, in several of the linked articles, they mention that this was not the first time he'd tried to visit Mrs. Kyi, and the last time, he left a Mormon bible. Two of the articles have subsequently been scrubbed of the "missionary" language, but it was there earlier today. Now it's subtext, but previously, it was stated outright that he was there to spread the word.

Also, if you want to do the research and find the blogs and myspace pages of his sons, you can read about their missionary trips (with their father) to China and Southeast Asia. (I guess the girls weren't allowed to go.) Because those kids are minors, I have chosen not to link their content, but as of this morning, it was out there and not terribly hard to find. I did it in under 20 minutes.

He has a tradition of going to Southeast Asia on missionary expeditions. He has taken CoLDS bibles about American Jesus to a Buddhist Nobel Laureate in the hopes that she might be cured of that nasty pagan virus.

I do not think the word "evangelist" is unnecessary hyperbole in this instance.
posted by dejah420 at 11:46 PM on May 14, 2009


You know, for allowing her to be subjected to the likes of him, the junta should - if justice was a concern at all - release her straightaway, resign from their cushy junta posts, and go hang.
posted by WalterMitty at 12:33 AM on May 15, 2009


The best take on these tragic events from within Burma I can find online is the Irrawaddy magazine website. The magazine is based in Thailand and I met some Burmese journalists, whose families in Burma are captured and put in prison, just because they publish in the Irrawaddy.
The official national newspaper "New light of Myanmar" is silent about it today (links to previous editions don't work for me) and has the usual news about town/factory/development visits by the fascist rat pack big wigs.
The rumors that I've been hearing for years now is that the regime is draining all resources to build a giant underground concrete bunker village, where they can protect themselves against whoever wants to bomb the shit out of them first.

All this is such a sad development. I don't think the junta put Yettaw up to this, they just want everybody to go away. Yettaw is just an asshole of biblical proportions.
posted by ouke at 2:59 AM on May 15, 2009


Seriously. What a jerk. Talk about having your priorities in EXACTLY the wrong place.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:55 AM on May 15, 2009


The World Famous, in several of the linked articles, they mention that this was not the first time he'd tried to visit Mrs. Kyi, and the last time, he left a Mormon bible.

"Mormon bible?"

Two of the articles have subsequently been scrubbed of the "missionary" language, but it was there earlier today. Now it's subtext, but previously, it was stated outright that he was there to spread the word.

This convinces me even more that that information was erroneous.

Also, if you want to do the research and find the blogs and myspace pages of his sons, you can read about their missionary trips (with their father) to China and Southeast Asia.

I've done some googling and haven't found the pages you refer to. Do you have a link that you can at least MeFiMail me?
"missionary trips" is just really not how the missionary program of the Mormon church works - at all. In fact, what you seem to be describing would run directly contrary to church policy, particularly with regard to China and Southeast Asia. Again, the more I read about this, the less I believe the "Mormon evangelist" angle.

He has a tradition of going to Southeast Asia on missionary expeditions.

Again, this is really not how missionary work in the Mormon church works. If it is true, then he is crazier than the craziest I've known (and I have known some real crazies).

He has taken CoLDS bibles about American Jesus to a Buddhist Nobel Laureate in the hopes that she might be cured of that nasty pagan virus.

Yeah, see, this just doesn't make sense at all.

I do not think the word "evangelist" is unnecessary hyperbole in this instance.

Even if he could fairly be characterized as an evangelist (and I'm not convinced he can), I see no evidence, beyond far-fetched inference based on insinuations, that evangelizing was the purpose of his swim.
posted by The World Famous at 10:34 AM on May 15, 2009


"Mormon bible?"

Don't be obtuse, you know darn well they're referring to the Book of Mormon. Doesn't mean you're wrong, mind you. But c'mon, seriously.
posted by aramaic at 10:39 AM on May 15, 2009


Don't be obtuse, you know darn well they're referring to the Book of Mormon. Doesn't mean you're wrong, mind you. But c'mon, seriously.

They very well might be. And it's likely they are. But they are reporters, and they are supposed to report, you know, reality. The articles don't say "Mormon bible." They say "a little Bible." This is the New York Times reporting, and it does not say "Mormon bible," "Book of Mormon," or anything like that. It says "a little Bible."

I think that, if someone is a member of the LDS Church and they leave someone a religious book, that it is more likely to be a Book of Mormon than some other religious book. But here, there is no evidence that that is the case, unless you assume that the New York Times was flat-out wrong.
posted by The World Famous at 10:48 AM on May 15, 2009






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