Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to two years in jail for inciting dissent

Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to two years in jail for inciting dissent and breaking Covid rules

suu kyi

Since February, ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been in detention after a military coup toppled her elected civilian government. On Monday morning, she was sentenced to four years in jail —with her sentence being reduced down to two years within the past 24 hours.

She faces 11 charges and consistently denies them all. 

The country’s military, led by commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing declared a 12-month long state of emergency on February 1st when it seized control of the country following a general election which saw Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party win by a landslide.

UN Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet condemned the latest “sham trial” and said it would only “deepen rejection of the coup”.

The conviction of Suu Kyi “closes yet another door to political dialogue” in the country of more than 54 million people and “will only deepen rejection of the coup”, Bachelet said in a statement from Geneva.

“The conviction of the State Counsellor following a sham trial in secretive proceedings before a military-controlled court is nothing but politically motivated.” 

“The military is attempting to instrumentalise the courts to remove all political opposition.”

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss called on Myanmar to release all political prisoners and allow the country to return to democracy.

“The arbitrary detention of elected politicians only risks further unrest,” she said.

“The sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi is another appalling attempt by Myanmar’s military regime to stifle opposition and suppress freedom and democracy.” 

“The UK calls on the regime to release political prisoners, engage in dialogue and allow a return to democracy.”

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted his shock and disapproval, publishing a statement where he also called the event a “sham trial and the sham sentence.”

“Daw Suu Kyi’s so-called ‘trial’ was a farce,” he wrote. “The proceedings had zero transparency. Her lawyers were silenced. This is not about COVID regulations, walkie talkies, or any of the other absurd pretexts.”

“The junta simply wanted to keep the last leader the Burmese people elected for themselves off the streets, so they disregarded the rule of law and did so. This is the same shameless tyranny with which the junta imprisoned countless citizens of Burma.” 

“The United States and friends of democracy worldwide must continue to pressure the junta,” he continued. “As Congress works our way through the National Defense Authorization Act, I have added a bipartisan amendment that will ensure our Administration articulates and then advances a real strategy to hold the regime accountable and support democratic actors like the National Unity Government.”

International human rights group, Amnesty International, called the charges “bogus”, saying it was the “latest example of the military’s determination to eliminate all opposition and suffocate freedoms in Myanmar”.

Aung San Suu Kyi spent almost 15 years under house arrest between 1989 and 2010 when the State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc), a party whose mission was to eliminate all forms of internal dissent or rebellion, declared martial law, arresting thousands of people, including democracy and human rights advocates. 

In 1991, at the age of 46, Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her nonviolent struggle for democracy in Myanmar.

In November 2015, her party, the NLD won a landslide victory, and she was widely regarded as the de facto ruler.

However, the military retained significant power under a constitution written and ratified under its own direction, thus preventing the elected leader from becoming president. 

In August 2017, insurgents claiming to represent Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority attacked security forces in the western state of Rakhine, killing dozens of people. The army responded with a violent counterinsurgency campaign which included mass killings, rape and arson that eventually forced out more than 730,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh.

During that period, at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed, according to medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières.

In December 2019, Suu Kyi defended the military’s actions in preliminary legal proceedings at the International Court of Justice against claims that soldiers committed genocide against the Rohingya – she said the army responded mostly appropriately to the attacks by armed insurgents.

Today, the 76-year-old continues to fight a series of charges, including several counts of corruption and breaching the official secrets act.

One of the charges includes the violation of Covid restrictions while she campaigned during last year’s election, even though she was wearing a mask and face shield while waving to supporters. 

In another, she was found guilty of inciting unrest for a statement she made calling for public opposition to the coup, released by her party after she was already in custody.

Dr.Sasa, minister and spokesperson for the National Unity Government, told the BBC Suu Kyi was struggling.

“She is not OK… military generals are preparing for 104 years of sentences for her in prison. They want her to die in prison,” Dr Sasa said.

“Today is a shameful day for the rule of law, justice and accountability in Myanmar,” he said on Monday. “The brutal military junta has today confirmed that they see themselves as above the law.”

“The global community must further target sanctions against the military, their personnel, the businesses they own, and any known affiliates and intermediaries,” he added.

According to the monitoring group, Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, more than 10,600 people to have been arrested by the junta since February, and at least 1,303 others killed in several protests. 

Over the weekend, several people were reportedly killed and others wounded after Myanmar security forces rammed a car into an anti-coup protest in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city. 

Currently, it is not clear when or if Suu Kyi will be put into prison and where she is being held.

She is next due to appear in court on 14 December, when she will face charges of possessing illegal walkie-talkies.

Suu Kyi is the daughter of Gen Aung San, the country’s independence activist and revolutionary, who was assassinated in 1947 at the age of 32, less than six months before the country became independent from Britain. At the time, Suu Kyi, his youngest child, was just two years old. 

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