A Missourian in Myanmar

Falcon, Mo., is a town even most Missourians have never heard of -- perhaps with good reason: It's not officially a town. The community on Highway 32 south of I-44, west of Fort Leonard Wood and east of Lebanon, Mo., is a place to get mail at the local post office. That's about it.

More people have heard of Falcon in recent weeks because of one of its residents, John Yettaw, a 53-year-old man with some serious health problems. Yettaw had a vision that Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was about to be assassinated. Draw a line on any globe and you'll see how far Falcon is from Suu Kyi's home in the Union of Myanmar, which is nestled between Thailand and Bangladesh on the Indian Ocean.

In May, Yettaw went to Myanmar and swam across a lake to reach the home of Suu Kyi, a democracy leader who has been under house arrest 14 of the last 20 years. Taking pity on an exhausted man in bad health, Suu Kyi reluctantly let Yettaw spend the night at her house. As a result, she was sentenced to 18 more months of house arrest. Yettaw received a sentence of seven years of hard labor.

What Yettaw did, particularly in imperiling the woman he purportedly wanted to save, is confounding beyond explanation. Fortunately for him, U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia took advantage of what appears to be a thaw in relations between the U.S. and Myanmar. Webb successfully negotiated Yettaw's release. Unfortunately, Suu Kyi remains penalized for Yettaw's rash actions.

Yettaw is no hero. Let's hope he gets whatever treatment he needs to avoid another incident like this. Senator Webb, on the other hand, is to be commended for his diplomacy in easing tensions between a world superpower and a tiny military-ruled country.