Myanmar holds American after swim to Suu Kyi's home

YANGON Thu May 7, 2009 7:12am EDT

Security personnel are seen at the junction of University Avenue, in which the residence of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is located, in Yangon May 27, 2008. REUTERS/Aung Hla Tun

Security personnel are seen at the junction of University Avenue, in which the residence of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is located, in Yangon May 27, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Aung Hla Tun

YANGON (Reuters) - Authorities in Myanmar have arrested an American after he swam across a lake to the residence of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest, and spent two days in her compound.

The official Kyemon daily said Thursday that John William Yeattaw was arrested while swimming in Inya Lake in Yangon early Wednesday.

Under interrogation, Yeattaw said he arrived in Yangon on a tourist visa Saturday and swam across the lake to Suu Kyi's compound Sunday night. He said he had secretly entered the house and stayed there until Tuesday night, the newspaper said.

Suu Kyi won an election in 1990 but never took power after the country's generals nullified the vote. She has spent more than 13 of the past 19 years under one form of detention or another.

Anyone wishing to visit her needs permission from the military authorities, who have run the country for four decades.

Contacted by Reuters, a U.S. embassy official who asked not to be identified said: "We just read about it in the official paper and we haven't been contacted by any official about it so far."

Asked about Yeattaw's motivations, he replied: "I have no idea."

People familiar with Suu Kyi's residence said it was unlikely Yeattaw could have remained in the compound for two days without her knowledge.

The newspaper said the authorities had confiscated Yeattaw's passport, a black haversack, a torch, a pair of pliers, a camera, two $100 notes and some local currency.

The lake is located at the heart of an elite residential area, home to the U.S. ambassador and the U.S. embassy.

(Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Editing by Alan Raybould and Gillian Murdoch)