Myanmar court has sentenced Aung San Suu Kyi to 4 years in prison. She is currently facing 11 charges including inciting dissent and breaking COVID protocols. According to reports, it is the first one in a series of verdicts that could keep her behind bars forever. Suu Kyi is also going to face charges of possessing illegal walkie-talkies on 14 December. The democratic leader has denied all charges.
Suu Kyi has been held under house arrest at an undisclosed location since February 2021. It was the time when the military junta launched a coup, ousted elected civilian government, and detained its democratic leaders. It is not clear whether will she go to prison or serve her sentence under house arrest. However, the case against her has increased the criticism against the Myanmar army.
Will Aung San Suu Kyi Sentence Increase Unrest In Myanmar?
The international community has responded furiously to the court’s decision, calling it baseless. Human Rights chief at United Nations (UN) Michelle Bachelet termed the court case against Aung San Suu Kyi as a “sham trial”, which will only enhance the rejection of the Myanmar coup. She added that “secretive proceedings” in military-run court were all politically motivated. The Amnesty International rights group further criticized the military, saying it was the latest example of how the junta is determined to eliminate all possible competition and chances of freedom in Myanmar. According to reports, approximately 1,300 people have been killed since the violence began concurrently with the military coup.
Western countries have also responded and demanded the release of a democratically elected public official. The UK called Suu Kyi’s sentencing “appalling” and asked to release all political prisoners and reinstate democracy. It also warned that the random detention of elected officials will further increase unrest in Myanmar. A major investor in Myanmar, Japan also called to restore democracy in the country. China, which enjoys a good relationship with Myanmar’s politicians and military leaders as well, said that all parties must settle their dispute under a constitutional framework and maintain the hard-earned transition to democracy.
Are All Charges Bogus?
There is no word from Aung San Suu Kyi besides her appearances in a court. The sole source of information about her legal proceedings is her lawyer. However, the court has issued them gag orders, which legally forbid them to speak on a certain case.
According to reports, a newly formed party, National Unity Government (NUG) for Myanmar was able to tell some more about the ousted leader. This party is made up of pro-democracy public figures, representatives of Suu Kyi’s deposed party National League for Democracy (NLD), Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs), and other various minor parties. Its spokesperson told the media that “Suu Kyi is not OK” as military leaders were preparing sentences of total of 104 years, to make sure that Suu Kyi dies in prison.
Her supporters calm that the military will keep designing these cases to bound her legally and keep consolidating power to itself.
A Fall from Grace
The Myanmar military seized control in a coup after alleging voter fraud in the 2020 general elections, in which NLD won by a landslide. The election commission and observers disagreed with the military and said that there were fair and free elections. Takeover by the army triggered widespread protests. In response, the military began crackdowns on pro-democracy demonstrators, journalists, and activists. According to reports, it arrested more than 10,000 people and Aung San Suu Kyi was one of them.
Suu Kyi received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for leading a nonviolent resistance against the military dictatorship, which was going on for 25 years. The military kept her in detention for 15 years because of her fearless fight for democracy. NLD finally won a landslide victory in 2015. Even though the “foreign national” rules prevented her from becoming a leader at the time, a wide majority considered her the de facto ruler of Myanmar.
However, her reputation faced damages in 2017 due to the Rohingya Muslim crisis. There were accusations against her linking to the violent campaign of murder, rape, and arson against the Rohingya minority. Suu Kyi denied the allegations and in turn accused the military of waging a genocidal campaign against the Rohingya community.