Suu Kyi may see out the remainder of her life under house arrest

A court in Myanmar has sentenced Aung San Suu Kyi, the ousted civilian leader, to two years in detention. It is the first verdict in multiple charges that could lead to the Nobel Peace Prize winner being locked up for the rest of her life.

he sentence was originally four years but was reduced after a partial pardon by the head of the military-appointed government, according to the country’s state television.

Ms Suu Kyi, 76, was detained and put under house arrest by the junta when it seized power in a February coup. She has since been hit with 11 charges that carry combined maximum sentences of more than 100 years.

The guilty verdicts yesterday by a court in Naypyidaw, the capital, related to charges of inciting dissent and breaking Covid-19 rules. She will serve her sentence by remaining under house arrest in Naypyidaw.

Her co-defendant Win Myint, the former president and fellow leader in the National League for Democracy (NLD), was convicted over the same allegations and received a similar jail term.

Ms Suu Kyi has denied all charges, including accusations of corruption that each carry a sentence of 15 years. The verdict in another case against her is due next week.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said the more severe criminal charges would most likely ensure she “is never allowed to be a free woman again”.

The incitement case involved statements posted on the NLD’s Facebook page after party leaders had been detained by the military, while the coronavirus charge involved a campaign appearance by Ms Suu Kyi ahead of November elections last year, which her party won by in a landslide.

The military accused the NLD of fraud during the poll, but independent election observers said there was no evidence to support this claim.

Ms Suu Kyi’s supporters say the charges against her are politically motivated and designed to discredit and bar the popular leader from running against the army in future elections. The trial has been widely condemned by the international community, which has called for democracy to be restored.

The UN’s human rights chief heavily criticised the junta over the conviction and demanded her release. The conviction “closes another door to political dialogue” in Myanmar and “will only deepen rejection of the coup”, Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.

Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, struck a more cautious tone, saying: “As a friendly neighbour, we sincerely hope that all parties in Myanmar will proceed from the long-term interests of the country.”

Ms Suu Kyi’s detention and the overturning of the civilian government sparked protests that have been brutally suppressed, with demonstrators killed on the streets, detained and tortured. More than 1,300 civilians have been killed since the coup, according to a local activist group.

Since the February coup, dozens of “people’s defence forces” (PDFs) have sprung up across Myanmar to fight back against the generals’ takeover.

One such group are the Karenni Nationalities Defence Force in the eastern Kayah state. “The speed with which these local PDFs have mobilised, obtained weapons, and developed the tactics and capabilities to regularly ambush regime forces has been striking,” said Richard Horsey, Myanmar senior adviser to the International Crisis Group. 

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]

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