Myanmar’s ousted civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, was convicted Monday and sentenced to four years in prison for possessing walkie-talkies in her home and for violating Covid-19 protocols.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, now 76, has been sentenced for a total of six-years in prison. Many more charges are pending against her.
Monday’s guilty verdict on three counts comes on top of her Dec. 5 conviction on charges of inciting public unrest and a separate count of breaching Covid-19 protocols. Initially sentenced to four-years imprisonment on these charges, her sentence was reduced by Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing (the army commander in chief), who was the leader of the February 1 coup that forced her out of office.
As the first anniversary of the coup approaches, the court found Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi guilty of violating Myanmar’s import-export law and its telecommunications law by possessing the communication devices. Her defenders claim that the walkie talkies belonged to her security team and that the charges are politically motivated.
She was sentenced for two years on Covid protocol, two on the charge of importation of walkie-talkies and one year for violating telecommunications laws. The sentences for the walkie-talkie charge will run simultaneously.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was held incommunicado at a house in Naypyidaw (the capital of Myanmar). Amnesty International called the walkie-talkie charges trumped up, saying “they suggest the military is desperate for a pretext to embark on a witch-hunt and intimidate anyone who challenges them.”
The charge of importing the devices — the first of many charges brought against her — was filed on Feb. 3, two days after the coup, and the court proceedings have lasted nearly a year.
The Covid protocols were violated by her guilty verdict. She was seen walking through supporters in a face shield, but not a face mask, during the 2020 election campaign. According to earlier reports, the conviction stemmed from the same incident that led to her previous conviction, in which she stood outside waving a face shield and face mask while being convicted. To supporters in vehicles.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi faces at least seven more charges — including five counts of corruption — with a potential maximum sentence of 89 years if she were to be found guilty on all remaining charges.
Human Rights Watch stated that the military regime was making its own appearance by accumulating convictions based on weak, politically motivated charges.
“The Myanmar junta’s courtroom circus of secret proceedings on bogus charges is all about steadily piling up more convictions against Aung San Suu Kyi so that she will remain in prison indefinitely,” said Phil Robertson, the group’s deputy Asia director.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was the Nobel Peace Laureate for 1991. She led her party, National League for Democracy, three times to landslide wins between 1990 and 2020. But the military prevented her from forming a government until 2016, when she was allowed to do so by the military.
Understanding the Coup in Myanmar
Between 1989 and 2010, she was under house arrest for 15 years. She later damaged her reputation as an international icon of democracy by not speaking out against the military’s brutal ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims, which drove more than 700,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh.
Since the coup, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, and the ousted president U Win Myint have been under house arrest at undisclosed locations near Naypyidaw. Mr. Win Myint, who was also convicted Dec. 5 for violating Covid-19 protocols, was sentenced to a four year term. The coup leader also reduced his sentence by half.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s trials are being held in a house in Naypyidaw that was converted into a courtroom. The public is not allowed to attend and her lawyers are prohibited from discussing the case.
A police court sentenced Daw Cher Cherry Htet (aged 30), a former bodyguard for Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s police lieutenant, to three-years in prison for violating rules of police conduct by posting inflammatory messages on Facebook.
In one post, she said simply, “We miss you Amay,” using the Burmese word for mother. The former bodyguard was also accused by communicating with the National Unity Government (the shadow government formed following the coup d’etat of ousted elected officials).
Monday’s conviction of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi came as the military continued its effort to suppress pro-democracy protests, combat a budding resistance movement and battle ethnic groups seeking autonomy. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (a rights group), soldiers and police have killed at most 1,447 civilians and detained almost 8,500 since the coup.
The Tatmadaw, the Myanmar military’s name, was accused of carrying out one of its worst massacres, when it killed at least 35 fleeing villagers and burned their bodies. Save the Children, a group that condemned the massacre said that two of its staff were among the victims when they returned home for the Christmas holiday.
Sui-Lee WeeContributed reporting
Source: NY Times