Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to four years in prison in Myanmar
The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and leader of the country’s democracy movement has been tried behind closed doors. Ms. Suu Kyi, 76, has been convicted of inciting and violating pandemic rules, according to a person familiar with the case. She has two years on each of the dozen charges brought against her by the military.
The convictions are likely to spark further unrest in the Southeast Asian nation that tumbled after the February 1 coup. Mass protests against army domination have been met with deadly violence, the country’s economy is in free fall and conflicts between the army and insurgents have intensified.
Soldiers and police officers have killed more than 1,300 people and arrested over 10,000 since the coup, according to the non-profit organization in support of political prisoners. In recent clashes on Sunday, security forces opened fire and rammed a truck into a crowd of protesters in Yangon, the country’s largest city.
State-controlled media reported that three people were injured, one seriously, and eleven were arrested. An independent local media company, Myanmar Now, reported that five people were killed. This report could not be independently verified.
An unconfirmed video of the incident posted on social media appears to show a vehicle speeding towards a group of protesters running the other way. In the video, at least one person can be seen lying on the floor. In another case, protesters with a portrait of Ms. Suu Kyi and a banner reading “The only real prison is fear and real freedom is freedom from fear” are seen fleeing when gunfire rang out behind them.
“We are appalled by reports that security forces opened fire on several peaceful demonstrators in Yangon this morning, ran them over and killed them,” said the US Embassy in Myanmar.
Ms. Suu Kyi’s conviction is the latest sign of no intention of loosening its grip on the junta and the harsh punishment recently imposed on several of its allies. Her longtime helper, 79-year-old Win Htein, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sedition in October. Two other members of her political party were sentenced in November to 92 and 77 years in prison for various offenses, according to their lawyer.
Ms. Suu Kyi was sentenced on Monday along with two others, ousted President Win Myint and a senior member of her political party, Myo Aung, according to a person familiar with the cases. All three were found guilty of incitement, while Ms. Suu Kyi and Mr. Win Myint were also found guilty of violating a Disaster Management Act.
Ms. Suu Kyi was not allowed to speak in public. Ms. Suu Kyi, who was originally detained at her residence in the capital, Naypyitaw, has been held in an undisclosed location since late May. The trials against her and other members of her government are closed to the public. Her lawyers were prevented from speaking to the press by the military junta.
Myanmar’s military did not respond to a request for comment. The junta said Ms. Suu Kyi was given due process.
The inducement against Ms. Suu Kyi is linked to two statements made by her political party, the National League for Democracy, shortly after the coup. The first called on the international community to refuse formal recognition of the junta, while the second declared the regime’s laws to be illegal. The allegation of violating pandemic rules is related to their presence among a crowd while the Civil Protection Act was in effect.
She has also been charged with illegally importing walkie-talkies, violating a state secret, electoral fraud and corruption.
Political analysts and human rights activists say Suu Kyi’s conviction is meant to keep them out of politics while the junta seeks to legitimize its rule through new elections on its own terms. The military says it took power due to irregularities in the 2020 election that gave Ms. Suu Kyi’s party an overwhelming victory. Independent observers say there is no evidence of widespread fraud.
“The many charges and the ensuing first conviction are meant to keep them out of the picture,” said Manny Maung, Myanmar researcher for Human Rights Watch. “But it is clear that the public will not swallow the pill they are given, and resentment against the military will only fuel further public demonstrations and resistance.”
Ms. Suu Kyi’s fierce rivalry with the Myanmar military goes back decades. The daughter of the country’s late independence hero became the face of Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement in 1988 amid a popular uprising against army rule. The following year she was sentenced to the first of several house arrests.
Ms. Suu Kyi spent most of the next two decades in military custody. Released in 2010, she led her party to a landslide victory in Myanmar’s first free and fair vote in a quarter of a century in 2015. She was banned from the presidency under an army-written constitution and served as the de facto leader until her arrest hours before her government was sworn in for her second term.
During her five-year tenure, the country’s democratic transition had stalled. Ms. Suu Kyi has long been hailed internationally as a human rights defender, but her reputation has been badly damaged for failing to protect Rohingya Muslims, a stateless minority targeted in a military offensive in 2017 that UN investigators say she is with her genocidal intent was carried out.
Your government has also been accused of relapsing civil liberties and using colonial-era laws to prosecute activists and journalists. Some critics say she was too forgiving of the generals, who, despite the transition being made, retained control of key ministries, large parts of the economy, and a veto on attempts to amend the constitution. Ethnic minority leaders involved in negotiations to end the country’s decades of civil war say peace talks have stalled. Hopes for an economic renaissance faded.
But she remained as popular as ever among the ethnic Burmese majority. Her supporters ignored the criticism and defended her as a pragmatist who could not push the military too quickly to make big changes. Within a week of the overthrow of her government, mass protests broke out across the country and workers went on strike, suddenly disrupting services such as transportation, banking and medical care.
Ms. Suu Kyi’s government has been arrested in large part. Many of those who were not arrested went into hiding and formed a parallel government with a range of political allies. The National Unity Government, as it calls itself, has condemned the junta as illegitimate and supported an emerging armed resistance. The military has escalated its offensive against these new rebels, whom it refers to as terrorists, who are bombing and burning down villages that are believed to be havens.
Political analysts expect more uncertainty and violence as both the military and its opponents appear uncompromising. “This will only build people’s determination to keep up the resistance, and that will mean a lot more violence across the country,” said David Mathieson, an independent expert on Myanmar based in the Thailand process, when it becomes clear that this is a political spectacle and only fuel the fire. “
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