Suu Kyi ‘house hearing’ begins

Lawyers for Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday issued their first statements in a hearing regarding an intra-familial dispute over her Rangoon house.

Suu Kyi’s estranged brother Aung San Oo has claimed part-ownership of the lakeside compound where Suu Kyi has been kept under house arrest for 14 of the part 20 years, and is attempting to block renovations that will boost security of the property.

The house was passed down to both parties by their mother, Khin Kyi, although Suu Kyi and her brother have been estranged for many years.

Nyan Win, one of Suu Kyi’s lawyers, said her legal team argued before the judges yesterday that Aung San Oo’s objection against the renovation was not in accordance with Burmese law. The court is to rule on the case on 6 April.

“The law doesn’t state that the renovation shall stop just because U Aung San Oo doesn’t approve it; it says the objection can only be made if something is causing damage to the house’s value or the house is being sold,” said Nyan Win.

“Also, the renovation has already been stopped so there is no reason [for Aung San Oo] to keep up with the objection. Of course, his lawyers argued that they were on the right side.”

Aung San Oo first claimed part-ownership of the house in 2000, amid speculation that he would then sell his half-share to the Burmese junta.

The courts however blocked the case, citing his status as a US citizen. It is illegal for foreign citizens to own property in Burma.

Suu Kyi began renovation on the house after security concerns were heightened following the visit in May last year of US citizen John Yettaw, who swam across Inya lake to her door.

The renovation was approved by Rangoon Division Municipal, but Aung San Oo subsequently filed an objection against the renovation at the municipal.

On 21 January, Aung San Oo, via his lawyer Han Toe, began to seek a court order at the Rangoon Divisional Court to [officially] stop the renovation.