Myanmar People Fear for Suu Kyi’s Life After Move to Prison; World Largely Silent

By Khin Nadi 30 June 2022

Since the regime’s transfer of Myanmar’s elected leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to solitary confinement in a prison, most people in the country can’t help worrying that her life will be in danger, especially given her old age.

They know that their leader will remain calm and strong in spirit, even though she is alone. However, as she is a prisoner of the brutal and wicked regime at the age of 77, they are concerned over her fragile state and her wellbeing.

“She could face death anytime in prison,” said veteran political analyst and writer U Than Soe Naing, who has been through Myanmar’s rocky politics for seven decades, expressing his concern.

He said the junta, which has always wanted to get rid of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has carefully calculated its moves against her this time, from charging her with a series of “fabricated” cases to handing down lengthy sentences, and finally transferring her to a prison, seeking to end not just her political life but her life itself.

“They put her in this life-threatening state, expecting her to die inside. In that way, they could bring about her end naturally, and not have to do it themselves,” the analyst added.

Since 1988, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been Myanmar’s most popular and cherished political leader, and the generals’ biggest enemy. She has been repeatedly attacked and arrested for her commitment to bring democracy to Myanmar.

Protesters raise three-finger salutes and hold placards with the image of detained Myanmar civilian leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi while using their mobile phone flashlights during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on March 12, 2021. / AFP

She was first detained in July 1989 and since then, she has spent 15 years under house arrest in her lakeside residence in Yangon.

Following the military takeover in February last year, coup leader Min Aung Hlaing placed her under house arrest before sending her to an undisclosed location for more than a year. Then the junta transferred her to solitary confinement in prison last Wednesday.

As Myanmar’s prisons are notorious for their poor conditions—not least their sanitary problems, with a lack of access to clean water and proper healthcare—it’s no wonder that many people have voiced concerns for the leader.

“If any danger befalls her, the junta will be totally responsible,” Ko Tayzar San, one of the most prominent anti-regime leaders, told The Irrawaddy.

The 33-year-old doctor-turned-activist said the junta’s jailing of the country’s “most respected and trusted leader who has been given a mandate by the public as their representative in every election she contested” was an “insult to all people and bullying with armed force”.

The oppression of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will only add to the people’s determination and make their revolutionary spirit stronger, he added.

The world is silent…

While Myanmar people are worried about their leader and sending their silent prayers for her wellbeing, the majority of the international community has been unprecedentedly tightlipped since the regime’s transfer of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to the prison last week.

Previously, the Myanmar democracy leader was a source of concern for the UN, the US and other European countries. The presidents, secretaries of state or prime ministers from those countries never failed to condemn the former regime for its inappropriate actions against her.

Contrary to their former positions, however, the US and some EU countries have so far not bothered to respond to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s prison transfer with official statements, more than one week on.

People stage protests outside the US Embassy in Yangon, calling on the international community to take action against the military junta in February last year.

On the fourth day after the transfer, Counselor of the US State Department Derek Chollet just said on Twitter that the US strongly denounced the military regime’s use of solitary confinement for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Individually, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s longtime friend US Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday tweeted that “solitary confinement at the hands of a military junta is only the latest injustice my friend, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has endured in the name of democracy in Burma,” using Myanmar’s former name.

“The United States and the entire free world must continue to stand with the people of Burma against this tyranny,” he urged.

Such muted international responses have disappointed Myanmar people like Ko Ye.

“It is painful to see the world treating her as nothing,” he said, adding that he couldn’t imagine being in the shoes of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is two years older than his grandmother, as a prisoner again.

Ko Ye said he thought the muted international response suggested the military’s mission of using the Rohingya crisis to trap her into destroying her image remained successful on the international stage.

The Myanmar military committed genocide against Rohingya people in northern Rakhine State in 2017, causing more than 700,000 of them to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi tarnished her international image by defending the military at the International Court of Justice, saying there was no genocide in Myanmar.

Igor Blazevic, senior adviser with the Prague Civil Society Centre, recently responded to a Czech political magazine, saying that while Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has made mistakes in her political life, nobody should let his or her disappointment in her cloud their understanding of who are the real monsters behind the mass crimes committed against the Rohingya and now against the population at large.

More importantly, Blazevic said, the ongoing Myanmar movement for democracy and freedom has learned from those mistakes.

Ko Ye said the international inaction won’t benefit anyone—not the Rohingya, not the people of Myanmar—but only the murderous junta.

Prominent anti-regime protest leader Ko Tayzar San said that the international community has failed to effectively support not only Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, but also the Myanmar revolution, which has now been going for more than a year.

“Thousands have been killed. Tens of thousands have been imprisoned. Yet, there is no effective international support to protect them. And no serious action has yet been taken against [the regime].”

However the activist said all ethnic brothers and sisters across the country will keep fighting together for their freedom and to build a federal democracy .

The veteran analyst U Than Soe Naing added that no matter how the junta attempts to intimidate people, the revolution will remain strong till the end.

“When our Spring Revolution wins, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political detainees will also be free.”