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Security Tight as Burma's Democracy Leader Goes On Trial

In Burma, security is tight outside the prison where authorities have started legal proceedings against detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The Nobel Peace Prize winner is facing up to five years in jail on charges that have been widely condemned as an excuse to keep her locked up. Burma's military rulers are not the only ones coming under increasing pressure for her release.

Riot police and barbed wire line the Rangoon prison where Aung San Suu Kyi is on trial Monday, charged with violating the terms of her house arrest.

Dozens of supporters were reported to be outside the prison but it was not clear if they would attempt a demonstration, which would not likely be tolerated in tightly controlled Burma.

But, protests against the trial are scheduled today in several cities across the globe.

In the Thai capital Monday morning protesters demonstrated outside the Burmese embassy, shouting for Burma's military rulers to release the democracy icon as well as the country's more than 2,000 other political prisoners.

To make a point about the lack of justice in Burma, one demonstrator was dressed as Aung San Suu Kyi while others pretended to be Burmese military, pointing guns at her and locking her up in a cage.

The demonstrators demanded more pressure on Burma from the international community, especially from the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN.

Julian Pieniazek is with the Thai Free Burma group, one of the protest organizers. He says they are appalled that some countries continue to support Burma's military rulers, who call themselves the State Peace and Development Council, or SPDC.

"You just have to look at the press reports over the last few days to see that the stunning silence from most of ASEAN countries, from China, from Russia…They clearly don't give a damn what is happening in Burma except that they don't want the SPDC to be removed from their position of power," Pieniazek said.

The United Nations and a few ASEAN members, including Thailand and Singapore, have shown concern about the trial, while the Philippines joined a host of western nations in expressing outrage at the charges against Aung San Suu Kyi.

The United States on Friday extended sanctions against Burma.

Burma's military rulers have confined Aung San Suu Kyi to her house for most of the last 19 years, limiting her contact with the outside world and only rarely allowing her visitors.

An unauthorized visit earlier this month from an American man, John Yettaw, could put her in prison for three to five years along with two of her assistants.

Yettaw, who swam across a lake and spent two nights in her residence, is also on trial for breaking Burma's security and immigration laws.

A U.S. embassy car was seen going into the prison, but ambassadors from Britain, France, Germany and Italy who also sought access to the trial were not allowed in.

Rights groups and western governments say the trial is an excuse to extend Aung San Suu Kyi's captivity, which was due to expire at the end of this month but is routinely extended.

The trial comes ahead of Burma's controversial 2010 elections, which have been criticized as a sham that will cement Burma's military in power.

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won the country's last elections in 1990 by a landslide but Burma's military ignored the results and placed her under house arrest.