Eighteen foreigners expelled from Myanmar on Saturday for handing out pro-democracy leaflets urged support for the country's human-rights movement, while opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi continued her own standoff with the nation's military regime.
"We're really, really happy to be free and not be in Burma anymore," Sapna Chattpar, a 21-year-old student from American University in Washington, said in Bangkok. Myanmar also is known as Burma."But the people of Burma who have done the exact same thing - to fight for human rights and democracy - they are suffering today," she added.
Relatives, friends and supporters mobbed and hugged Chattpar and the 17 others at Bangkok's airport, draping them with garlands of flowers.
In a one-day trial Friday, a judge convicted the six Americans, three Indonesians, three Malaysians, three Thais, two Filipinos and an Australian of violating an Emergency Provisions Act dating from 1950. They were sentenced to five years of hard labor, but within minutes officials announced the sentences were suspended and they would be deported.
The Americans were Chattpar; Nisha Marie Anand, 21, of Atlanta; Joel Edward Greer, 34, of New York; Anjanette Hamilton, 20, of Portsmouth, N.H.; Tyler Gianini, 28, of Washington; and Michele Keegan, 19, of Hamilton Township, N.J.
At least four of them - Keegan, Hamilton, Anand and Chattpar - were expected to return to the United States late Sunday or Monday.
Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, meanwhile, remained parked at a roadblock 19 miles west of Yangon for a fourth day. Authorities do not want her to meet supporters of her party outside Yangon.
Myanmar's military regime has accused her and the foreign activists of trying to destabilize the state.
Gen. Maung Aye, the army commander and one of the top four generals in Myanmar's ruling State Peace and Development Council, said in a speech reported by official newspapers Saturday that "traitors" were working with foreign powers.