A junta court in Naypyitaw Prison is set to hand down a ruling on Dec. 30 in a corruption case against ousted President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the last in a slew of indictments filed against the pair by Myanmar’s military regime.
The case relates to the rental and purchase of a helicopter for use during natural disasters and state affairs, including rescues and emergencies.
The regime alleges that U Win Myint and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi broke the law and squandered government funds on the helicopter. The pair face five counts of corruption and up to 15 years in prison if convicted. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has denied the charges, insisting she was “just giving instructions according to office procedures.”
The scheduled date of the verdict has prompted speculation that the two might have their long prison sentences commuted when the regime grants an expected general amnesty to mark the new year and the 75th anniversary of Myanmar’s Independence Day, which falls on Jan. 4.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has already been given 26 years in prison on 14 charges filed by the regime, and U Win Myint has received five years on three 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.
Faced with international pressure, the regime granted amnesties on the country’s national holidays last year and this year, and freed some political prisoners to mark the country’s National Day last month. U Win Myint and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi were not eligible for release under the amnesty as the pair were still on trial at the time.
In its recent resolution on Myanmar, the United Nations Security Council demanded that the regime release all political prisoners, including the two.
The regime might take the opportunity provided by the upcoming national holidays to reduce their prison sentences so as to ease international pressure, suggest political observers, though it is unlikely they would be released right away.
The junta might also consider moving Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to house arrest from her current solitary confinement in Naypyitaw Prison. Under previous military regimes, the civilian leader was only placed under house arrest, not kept in prison.
Last year, the regime reduced U Win Myint and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s prison sentences by two years.
Lawyers for the two sides made their closing arguments at the junta court in Naypyitaw Prison on Monday, and the court set the date for the verdict as Dec. 30.
Both U Win Myint and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi have denied the charges, calling them baseless.
Former Myanmar Vice President Henry Van Thio of the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) government testified against the junta’s allegations during the previous court hearings in the case in Naypyitaw Prison. He said the helicopter was purchased in line with procedures, and with state funds and donations from donors at home and abroad, a court source told The Irrawaddy.