Many anticipated that it would be a crude farce, others, in more diplomatic terms, showed their skepticism about a trial that would take place with the military junta in power in Myanmar, but the truth is that the worst omens have been confirmed for Aung San Suu Kyi, who just suffered her first defeat. The leader de facto of the Government deposed by the Army on February 1 has been sentenced this Monday to two years in prison for inciting violence and failing to comply with measures to contain the covid-19 pandemic. At first, Suu Kyi was sentenced by a Burmese court to four years in prison, but hours later state television announced that her sentence was reduced to two for a partial pardon granted by the head of the coup military junta. In the 10 months that have passed since her arrest, the number of crimes against the Nobel Peace Prize winner has only increased: she is currently accused of a total of 11, which could carry her a joint sentence of 104 years between bars.
The Zabuthiri court in the capital Naipyidó has convicted Suu Kyi on two counts. The first, for incitement to protests, following a statement published by her party when she had already been arrested, calling for public opposition to the coup. The second, for violating section 25 of the Disaster Management Law and violating the protocols activated to stop the pandemic during the electoral campaign of the 2020 elections, despite wearing a mask and face protection.
Former President Win Myint, Suu Kyi’s ally in her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), has been sentenced to four years in prison for the same crimes. According to the news portal Myanmar Now, the former mayor of Naipyidó, Myo Aung, has been sentenced to a two-year prison term for inciting violence.
Suu Kyi, known as The Lady, is also accused of several crimes of corruption – each of which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison -, importation and illegal possession of walkie talkies, and breaking the official secrets law – sentenced to up to 14 years in prison. If convicted, the 76-year-old former Burmese leader could face a joint sentence of more than a century behind bars. Her lawyers deny all the charges and reiterate that it is a ploy by the Army (the Tatmadaw) to remove her from politics.
The 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner – who already spent almost 15 years in prison between 1989 and 2010 for leading the movement against the military dictatorship that ruled the country for half a century (1962-2011) – has been under house arrest since the coup. and, for the moment, it is unknown if she will be transferred to prison. The special envoy of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), tasked with seeking a diplomatic avenue to resolve the crisis, was denied permission to visit her in October. In response, Min Aung Hlaing, head of the military junta, is banned from attending the organization’s meetings.
All trials are being held behind closed doors and without witnesses, and the Burmese authorities have decreed secrecy, so Suu Kyi’s lawyers are prohibited from granting interviews.
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After hearing the sentence, the human rights organization Amnesty International has called the accusations “false” and has expressed in a statement that the verdict is “the latest example of the determination that the military junta has to eliminate any type of opposition and suffocate the freedoms of Myanmar ”. International analysts consider that it is a legal setup of the Tatmadaw to remove the threat that Suu Kyi and her party would pose in the 2023 elections.
The sentence against the former leader also comes a day after the security forces of the former Burma harshly repressed a protest in Rangoon, the country’s largest city. In accordance with Myanmar Now, an Army vehicle ran over the protesters, leaving at least five dead. According to a statement issued by the military (which does not mention any deaths or the alleged vehicle that hit the civilians), 11 protesters were arrested and, of them, two men and one woman were injured.
The United Nations office for Myanmar has condemned the incident and criticized the “attack on a large number of unarmed civilians.” It adds that “a vehicle that belonged to the security forces rammed the protesters, who were later shot with live ammunition, causing injuries and the death of dozens of people.” According to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners, more than 10,600 people have been arrested in the social mobilizations that have taken place since February, and more than 1,300 have been killed.
The military junta in power continues to struggle to impose order in the nation, 10 months after the coup. The Special Advisory Council for Myanmar denounces that the education and health systems have collapsed, the economy fails to recover and poverty rates have skyrocketed. From this organization they warn that the Tatmadaw it is blocking access to food and medical supplies in many communities, bringing the population to the brink of starvation.
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