A military regime-controlled court in Myanmar has sentenced the country’s ousted democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to another seven years in prison on five corruption charges, ending a series of legal cases filed against her by the junta following the coup last year. She was handed five sentences totaling 16 years but some of them are to be served concurrently.
With the latest verdicts handed down in Naypyitaw on Friday, the country’s former State Counselor, 77, has now been sentenced to a total of 33 years in prison. She was previously sentenced to 26 years for 14 other alleged offenses including violation of COVID-19 regulations and possession of walkie-talkies. She has denied all the charges.
Myanmar’s detained President U Win Myint of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) government was also sentenced to another seven years in prison on Friday in the corruption cases. He had already been sentenced to five years on three earlier charges.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is being held in Naypyitaw Prison, and U Win Myint is believed to be under house arrest in a secret location in Naypyitaw.
The last verdicts against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi follow Wednesday’s meeting between newly appointed Chinese special envoy on Myanmar Deng Xijun and regime chief Min Aung Hlaing to discuss China’s assistance to junta-organized “peace talks”, and promotion of bilateral relations and cooperation.
The junta previously rejected the requests of other envoys, including those from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the UN, to meet Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, reasoning that she was still on trial.
Now that her trials have concluded, it remains to be seen whether the regime will allow international envoys to meet her amid growing international pressure on it to do so.
Recently, the UN Security Council passed a resolution on Myanmar calling for the release of political prisoners including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and U Win Myint.
The junta staged a coup against the democratically elected NLD government led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021, accusing it of vote rigging in the 2020 election, in which the party won a landslide victory.
Since the coup, the regime has faced widespread popular armed resistance. It has so far killed more than 2,600 people and arrested more than 13,000, mainly for anti-regime activism.
Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, said due process and a free and fair trial for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi were “never remotely possible” under the circumstances of the regime’s political persecution against her.
“Since Suu Kyi is now 77 years old, these 33 years of cumulative imprisonment amount to an effective life sentence against her,” he said.
He also stressed that by issuing the verdicts during the New Year’s holiday, the junta is obviously hoping the international community will miss the news, and that there will be little global publicity about the final result of the military’s “blatantly unjust” campaign against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
HRW also urged the international community to respond with strong, meaningful sanctions against the junta.
“As long as international action consists of just jaw-boning the junta without cutting off their revenue sources, Myanmar’s generals will keep brushing those actions aside, committing rights abuses with impunity, and holding a Nobel Prize winner as a political prisoner,” Robertson said.