Aung San Suu Kyi
Myanmar’s military government took another major step in its ongoing campaign to cripple its political opponents on Wednesday, dissolving dozens of opposition parties including that of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi for failing to meet a registration deadline ahead of elections. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, or NLD, was one of 40 parties ordered dissolved in an official announcement by the election commission published Wednesday in the state-controlled press. The NLD governed Myanmar with overwhelming majorities in Parliament from 2015 to 2021 before being overthrown by the military. The NLD had already announced that it would not register, denouncing the promised polls as a sham. The party, and other critics, say the still-unscheduled polls will be neither free nor fair in a military-ruled country that has shut free media and arrested most of the leaders of Suu Kyi’s party. The NLD won a landslide victory in the November 2020 election, but in February 2021, the army blocked all elected lawmakers from taking their seats in Parliament and seized power, detaining top members of Suu Kyi’s government and party. The army takeover was met with widespread popular opposition. After peaceful demonstrations were put down with lethal force, many opponents of military rule took up arms, and large parts of the country are embroiled in conflict. Suu Kyi, 77, is serving prison sentences totaling 33 years after being convicted in a series of politically tainted prosecutions brought by the military. Her supporters say the charges were contrived to prevent her from participating in politics. Kyaw Htwe, a member of the NLD’s Central Working Committee, told The Associated Press on Tuesday night that the party’s existence does not depend on what the military decides, and it “will exist as long as the people support it.” His statement was a reference to a message Suu Kyi sent to her supporters through her lawyers in May 2021 when she appeared in court in person for the first time after the military seized power, She said “Since the NLD was founded for the people, the NLD will exist as long as the people exist.″ “The party will continue to fulfill the responsibilities entrusted by the people.” Kyaw Htwe said in a text message. The army said it staged its 2021 takeover because of massive poll fraud, though independent election observers did not find any major irregularities. Some critics of Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, who led the takeover and is now Myanmar’s top leader, believe he acted because the vote thwarted his own political ambitions. The new polls had been expected by the end of July, according to the army’s own plans. But in February, the military announced a six-month extension of its state of emergency, delaying the possible legal date for holding an election. It said security could not be assured. The military does not control large swaths of the country, where it faces widespread armed resistance to its rule. “Amid the state oppression following the 2021 coup, no election can be credible, especially when much of the population sees a vote as a cynical attempt to supplant the landslide victory of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy in 2020,” said a report issued Tuesday by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group think tank. “The polls will almost certainly intensify the post-coup conflict, as the regime seeks to force them through and resistance groups seek to disrupt them.” The military government enacted a new political party registration law in January that makes it difficult for opposition groups to mount a serious challenge to the army’s favored candidates. It sets conditions such as minimum levels of membership and candidates and offices that any party without the backing of the army and its cronies would find hard to meet, especially in the repressive political atmosphere. The new law required existing political parties to re-apply for registration with the election commission by March 28. Ninety parties ran in the 2020 election, of which just under half have been dissolved. The state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper on Wednesday published the election commission's list of 50 existing parties that had registered by the Tuesday deadline, and 40 that had not, meaning they would be dissolved as of Wednesday. The surviving parties are unlikely to pose a meaningful electoral challenge to the junta: they won only a handful of seats in the 2020 election, and most will not mount national campaigns. “Among these 63 parties, 12 parties will launch election campaigns across the nation and 51 parties only in one region or state,” the state-run paper reported. The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, which ran a distant second to the NLD in 2015 and 2020, registered again. The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, and NLD ally that won the third largest number of seats in 2020, did not. Thirteen new parties registered, and the announcement said the opportunity for new parties to register was still open. The National League for Democracy was founded in 1988 in the wake of a failed uprising against military rule. It won a 1990 general election that was invalidated by the country’s military rulers. It was technically banned after it boycotted a 2010 election held under military auspices because it felt it was not free or fair, but was allowed to register when it agreed to run in 2011. It took power after a landslide victory in the 2015 general election.
BANGKOK (AP/UNB) — A court in military-ruled Myanmar convicted the country’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi of corruption Friday, sentencing her to seven years in prison in the last of a string of criminal cases against her, a legal official said. The court’s action leaves her with a total of 33 years to serve in prison after a series of politically tinged prosecutions since the army toppled her elected government in February 2021. The case that ended Friday involved five offenses under the anti-corruption law and followed earlier convictions on seven other corruption counts, each of which was punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine. The 77-year-old Suu Kyi has also been convicted of several other offenses, including illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, violating coronavirus restrictions, breaching the country’s official secrets act, sedition and election fraud. Her previous convictions had landed her with a total of 26 years’ imprisonment. Suu Kyi’s supporters and independent analysts say the numerous charges against her and her allies are an attempt to legitimize the military’s seizure of power while eliminating her from politics before an election it has promised for 2023. In the five counts of corruption decided Friday, Suu Kyi was alleged to have abused her position and caused a loss of state funds by neglecting to follow financial regulations in granting permission to Win Myat Aye, a Cabinet member in her former government, to hire, buy and maintain a helicopter. Suu Kyi was the de facto head of government, holding the title of state counsellor. Win Myint, who was president in her government, was a co-defendant in the same case. Friday’s verdict in the purpose-built courtroom in the main prison on the outskirts of the capital, Naypyitaw, was made known by a legal official who insisted on anonymity for fear of being punished by the authorities. The trial was closed to the media, diplomats and spectators, and her lawyers were barred by a gag order from talking about it. The legal official said Suu Kyi received sentences of three years for each of four charges, to be served concurrently, and four years for the charge related to the helicopter purchase, for a total of seven years. Win Myint received the same sentences. Win Myat Aye, at the center of the case, escaped arrest and is now Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management in the National Unity Government, established by the military's opponents as a parallel administration by elected legislators who were barred from taking their seats when the army seized power last year. The military has declared NUG to be an outlawed “terrorist organization.” The defendants denied all charges, and her lawyers are expected to appeal in the coming days. The official also said both Suu Kyi and Win Myint appeared to be in good health. "From start to finish, the junta grabbed whatever it could to manufacture cases against her with full confidence that the country’s kangaroo courts would come back with whatever punitive judgments the military wanted,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said in an emailed statement. “Due process and a free and fair trial were never remotely possible under the circumstances of this political persecution against her.” The end of the court cases against Suu Kyi, at least for now, raises the possibility that she would be allowed outside visitors, which she has been denied since she was detained. The military government has repeatedly denied all requests to meet with her, including from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which seeks to help mediate an end to the crisis in Myanmar that some United Nations experts have characterized as a civil war because of the armed opposition to military rule. The U.N., after its special envoy Noeleen Heyzer met in August with Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, announced the head of Myanmar’s military-installed government, that he “expressed openness to arranging a meeting at the right time” between her and Suu Kyi. A statement from the military government said: "Depending on the circumstances after the completion of the judiciary process, we will consider how to proceed.” Due to her age, the 33 years in prison that Suu Kyi now faces “amount to an effective life sentence against her,” said Robertson. “The Myanmar junta’s farcical, totally unjust parade of charges and convictions against Aung San Suu Kyi amount to politically motivated punishment designed to hold her behind bars for the rest of her life," he said. “The convictions aim to both permanently sideline her, as well as undermine and ultimately negate her NLD party’s landslide victory in the November 2020 election.” Suu Kyi is currently being held in a newly constructed separate building in the prison in Naypyitaw, near the courthouse where her trial was held, with three policewomen whose duty is to assist her. Allowing access to Suu Kyi has been a major demand of the many international critics of Myanmar’s military rulers, who have faced diplomatic and political sanctions for their human rights abuses and suppression of democracy. Suu Kyi, the daughter of Myanmar’s martyred independence hero Gen. Aung San, spent almost 15 years as a political prisoner under house arrest between 1989 and 2010. Her tough stand against the military rule in Myanmar turned her into a symbol of nonviolent struggle for democracy, and won her the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize. Her National League for Democracy party initially came to power after easily winning the 2015 general election, ushering in a true civilian government for the first time since a 1962 military coup. But after coming to power, Suu Kyi was criticized for showing deference to the military while ignoring atrocities it is credibly accused of committing in a 2017 crackdown on the Muslim Rohingya minority. Her National League for Democracy won a landslide victory again in the 2020 election, but less than three months afterwards, elected lawmakers were kept from taking their seats in Parliament and top members of her government and party were detained. The army said it acted because there had been massive voting fraud in the 2020 election, but independent election observers did not find any major irregularities. The army’s takeover in 2021 triggered widespread peaceful protests that security forces tried to crush with deadly forces and that soon erupted into armed resistance. Myanmar security forces have killed at least 2,685 civilians and arrested 16,651, according to a detailed list compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a non-governmental organization that tracks killings and arrests.
A court in military-ruled Myanmar convicted the country’s ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, on two more corruption charges Wednesday, with two three-year sentences to be served concurrently, adding to previous convictions that now leave her with a 26-year total prison term, a legal official said. Suu Kyi, 77, was detained on Feb. 1, 2021, when the military seized power from her elected government. She has denied the allegations against her in this case, in which she was accused of receiving $550,000 as a bribe from Maung Weik, a tycoon convicted of drug trafficking. Corruption cases comprise the biggest share of the many charges the military has brought against the 1991 Nobel Peace laureate. Suu Kyi has been charged with 12 counts in total under the Anti-Corruption Act, with each count punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine. Suu Kyi had already been sentenced to 23 years’ imprisonment after being convicted of illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, violating coronavirus restrictions, breaching the country’s official secrets act, sedition, election fraud and five corruption charges. Her supporters and independent analysts say the charges are politically motivated and an attempt to discredit her and legitimize the military’s seizure of power while keeping her from taking part in the next election, which the military has promised in 2023. In recent months, her trials have been held in a purpose-built courtroom in the main prison on the outskirts of the capital, Naypyitaw. She has not been seen or allowed to speak in public since she was arrested and her lawyers, who had been a source of information on the proceedings, have not been allowed to speak publicly on her behalf or about her trial since a gag order was placed on them last year. In the case decided Wednesday, Suu Kyi was accused of receiving a total of $550,000 in 2019 and 2020 from Maung Weik, with separate payments being treated as two offenses. Maung Weik, a construction magnate, had a close relationship with the army generals in power during a previous military-run government, and has headed two main companies during three decades in business: Maung Weik & Family Co. Ltd., specializing in the trading of metals and agricultural products, and Sae Paing Development Ltd., a real estate and construction company. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2008 for trafficking drugs but was released in 2014 under a semi-democratic transitional government led by former General Thein Sein. After his release from prison, Maung Weik returned to doing business with former generals and according to a 2017 report in The Irrawaddy, an online news magazine, became chairman of Mandalay Business Capital City Development, which was involved in urban development work. Under Suu Kyi’s government, Maung Weik won a major development project that included the construction of houses, restaurants, hospitals, economic zones, a port and hotel zones in Myanmar’s central Mandalay region. He was reportedly interrogated by the army two weeks after its takeover last year, and shortly after that, in March 2021, military-controlled state television broadcast a video in which he claimed to have given cash payoffs to government ministers to help his businesses. He said in his video that the money included $100,000 provided to Suu Kyi in 2018 for a charitable foundation named after her mother, and another $450,000 in payments in 2019 and 2020 for purposes he did not specify. A state-controlled newspaper, the Global New Light of Myanmar, reported in February that Suu Kyi in her position as state counselor — the country’s de facto chief executive — received $550,000 in four installments in 2019-2020 “to facilitate the business activities of a private entrepreneur.” Suu Kyi’s close colleague, Zaw Myint Maung, who served as a chief minister in the Mandalay region, was separately accused of receiving more than $180,000 from Maung Weik and was convicted of corruption in June. Wednesday’s verdict sentencing Suu Kyi to two three-year sentences to be served concurrently was conveyed by a legal official who insisted on anonymity for fear of being punished by the authorities. He added that her lawyers are expected to file an appeal in the coming days. In separate proceedings, Suu Kyi is still being tried together with the country’s former president, Win Myint, on another five corruption charges in connection with permits granted to a Cabinet minister for the rental and purchase of a helicopter. Suu Kyi has been the face of the opposition to military rule in Myanmar for more than three decades. The previous military government put her under house arrest in 1989, which continued on-and-off for 15 of the next 22 years. Her National League for Democracy party initially came to power after winning the 2015 general election, ushering in a true civilian government for the first time since a 1962 military coup. However, democratic reforms were small and slow in coming, largely because the military retained substantial power and influence under the terms of a constitution it had enacted in 2008. The National League for Democracy won a landslide victory again in the 2020 election, but its lawmakers were kept from taking their seats in Parliament by the army, which also arrested the party’s top leaders. The army said it acted because there had been massive voting fraud in the 2020 election, but independent election observers did not find any major irregularities. The 2021 takeover was met by nationwide peaceful protests that security forces quashed with deadly force, triggering fierce armed resistance that some U.N. experts now characterize as civil war. According to a detailed list compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a watchdog group now based in Thailand, Myanmar security forces have killed at least 2,343 civilians and arrested 15,821.
A court in Myanmar on Friday sentenced the country’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to three years' imprisonment after finding her guilty of involvement in election fraud. The ruling adds more jail time to the 17 years she is already serving for other offenses. It also imperils the survival of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party following the government’s explicit threats to dissolve it before a new election the military has promised will take place in 2023 Also read: Myanmar’s Suu Kyi testifies in election fraud trial Suu Kyi’s party won the the 2020 general election in a landslide victory. The military seized power from Suu Kyi’s elected government on Feb. 1, 2021, saying it acted because of alleged widespread voter fraud. Independent election observers did not find any major irregularities. Two senior members of Suu Kyi's former government were co-defendants in the case and also received three-year prison sentences. Also read: Myanmar says Suu Kyi held alone in new prison quarters
The United Nations' humanitarian relief agency says the number of people displaced within strife-torn Myanmar has for the first time exceeded 1 million, with well over half the total losing their homes after a military takeover last year. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says in a report that an already critical situation is being exacerbated by ongoing fighting between the military government and its opponents, the increasing prices of essential commodities, and the coming of monsoon season, while funding for its relief efforts is severely inadequate. Its report covers the situation up to May 26. The military has hindered or denied independent access to areas not under its control, hampering aid efforts. Myanmar’s army in February last year seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, triggering widespread peaceful protests. When those were put down with lethal force by the army and police, nonviolent opposition turned into armed resistance, and the country slipped into what some U.N. experts characterize as a civil war. Also read: Myanmar situation continues to remain unsafe for civilians: Bangladesh OCHA says that fighting has recently escalated. “The impact on civilians is worsening daily with frequent indiscriminate attacks and incidents involving explosive hazards, including landmines and explosive remnants of war," the report says. It says that more than 694,300 people have become displaced from their homes since the army takeover, with thousands being uprooted a second or third time, and an estimated 346,000 people were displaced by fighting before last year’s takeover — mostly in frontier regions populated by ethnic minority groups who have been struggling for greater autonomy for decades. The report also says about 40,200 people have fled to neighboring countries since the takeover and more than 12,700 “civilian properties,” including houses, churches, monasteries and schools are estimated to have been destroyed. As of the end of the first quarter of this year, humanitarian assistance reached 2.6 million people in Myanmar, or 41% of the 6.2 million people targeted, OCHA says. The country's total population is over 55 million. But it warns this year’s Myanmar Humanitarian Response Plan is only 10% funded so far, falling short by $740 million. An official of the military government's Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement said Wednesday at a news conference in Myanmar's capital Naypyitaw that the government distributed humanitarian aid to more than 130,000 displaced people from May 2021 through May 27 this year. The official, whose testimony was broadcast but who was not identified by name, said 1,255 houses and five religious buildings were burned or destroyed in fighting between the army and local resistance militias, and consequently received government aid for rebuilding. Also read: FM urges UNHCR to expedite efforts at Rohingya repatriation to Myanmar U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said last month that the number of people worldwide forced to flee conflict, violence, human rights violations and persecution has crossed the milestone of 100 million for the first time on record. That's more than 1% of the global population and comprises refugees and asylum-seekers as well as people displaced inside their own countries by conflict. Violence and conflicts in countries including Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Nigeria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo had driven the total to almost 90 million by the end of last year. The war in Ukraine pushed the number past the 100 million mark. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, an independent Geneva-based non-governmental organization, said 53.2 million people were displaced within their countries as a result of conflict and violence as of Dec. 31.
A court in military-ruled Myanmar convicted the country’s former leader Aung San Suu Kyi of corruption and sentenced her to five years in prison Wednesday in the first of several corruption cases against her. Suu Kyi, who was ousted by an army takeover last year, had denied the allegation that she had accepted gold and hundreds of thousands of dollars given her as a bribe by a top political colleague. Her supporters and independent legal experts consider her prosecution an unjust move to discredit Suu Kyi and legitimize the military’s seizure of power while keeping the 76-year-old elected leader from returning to an active role in politics. She has already been sentenced to six years imprisonment in other cases and faces 10 more corruption charges. The maximum punishment under the Anti-Corruption Act is 15 years in prison and a fine. Convictions in the other cases could bring sentences of more than 100 years in prison in total for a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who already spent years in detention for defying military rule. READ: Myanmar’s Suu Kyi sentenced to 4 more years in prison News of Wednesday’s verdict came from a legal official who asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to release such information. Suu Kyi’s trial in the capital Naypyitaw was closed to the media, diplomats and spectators, and her lawyers were barred from speaking to the press. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in the 2020 general election, but lawmakers were not allowed to take their seats when the army seized power on Feb. 1, 2021, arresting Suu Kyi and many senior colleagues in her party and government. The army claimed it acted because there had been massive electoral fraud, but independent election observers didn’t find any major irregularities. The takeover was met with large nonviolent protests nationwide, which security forces quashed with lethal force that has so far led to the deaths of almost 1,800 civilians, according to a watchdog group, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Read: Tortured to death: Myanmar mass killings revealed As repression escalated, armed resistance against the military government grew, and some U.N. experts now characterize the country as being in a state of civil war. Suu Kyi has not been seen or allowed to speak in public since she was detained and is being held in an undisclosed location. However, at last week’s final hearing in the case, she appeared to be in good health and asked her supporters to “stay united,” said a legal official familiar with the proceedings who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to release information. In earlier cases, Suu Kyi was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment on convictions of illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, violating coronavirus restrictions and sedition. In the case decided Wednesday, she was accused of receiving $600,000 and seven gold bars in 2017-18 from Phyo Min Thein, the former chief minister of Yangon, the country’s biggest city and a senior member of her political party. Her lawyers, before they were served with gag orders late last year, said she rejected all his testimony against her as “absurd.” The nine other cases currently being tried under the Anti-Corruption Act include several related to the purchase and rental of a helicopter by one of her former Cabinet ministers. Violations of the law carry a maximum penalty for each offense of 15 years in prison and a fine. Suu Kyi is also charged with diverting money meant as charitable donations to build a residence, and with misusing her position to obtain rental properties at lower-than-market prices for a foundation named after her mother. The state Anti-Corruption Commission has declared that several of her alleged actions deprived the state of revenue it would otherwise have earned. Another corruption charge alleging that she accepted a bribe has not yet gone to trial. Suu Kyi is also being tried on a charge of violating the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years, and on a charge alleging election fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of three years.
Asian Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) Chair Charles Santiago has said Prak Sokhonn, as ASEAN Special Envoy to Myanmar, must now ensure that he meets with all stakeholders, including the National Unity Government (NUG), civil society, and detained leaders such as Aung San Suu Kyi. "We welcome Cambodia's repositioning to respect ASEAN's stance to hold the junta accountable to the Five-Point Consensus," said Santiago on Friday regarding Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen's latest comments on Myanmar. Read:Myanmar says it won’t attend ASEAN foreign ministers meeting The APHR Chair said they have also been encouraged by comments from Malaysia's Foreign Minister, Saifuddin Abdullah, calling on the envoy to meet with the NUG and representatives of the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC)." “As the ASEAN Foreign Ministers meet this week, without a Myanmar representative, the bloc must use this as the opportunity to form a meaningful and cohesive response to the Myanmar crisis, one that helps the Myanmar people, " said the APHR Chair. This includes supporting local non-state actors and networks that the people already trust in order to distribute much-needed humanitarian assistance.
Myanmar will not participate in this week’s meetings in Cambodia of foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, spurning an invitation to send a non-political representative instead of its chief diplomat, its government said Monday. Cambodia, the current ASEAN chair, said earlier this month that members of the regional group had failed to reach a consensus on inviting Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin to its meetings on Thursday and Friday in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. Wunna Maung Lwin was appointed foreign minister after the military seized power in Myanmar last year, ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The decision to restrict Myanmar’s participation reflected a disagreement over Myanmar’s lack of cooperation in implementing measures agreed upon by the 10-member group last year to help ease that country’s violent political crisis following the army’s takeover. The head of Myanmar’s military government, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, was not invited to last October’s virtual meeting of ASEAN leaders because of the disagreement. That rebuke was issued shortly after Myanmar declined to let an ASEAN special envoy meet with Suu Kyi, who has been in detention since the military took power. Also read: One year into Myanmar coup: Stronger course of int’l action needed “Despite the efforts made by the ASEAN chair and Myanmar to promote cooperation in ASEAN, it is regrettable to see the return of the decision made last year which Myanmar in principle is unable to accept,” Myanmar’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement Monday night. “In this regard, Myanmar’s inability to participate or even designate a non-political representative ... is inevitable since it contradicts the principles and practice of equal representation in ASEAN.” ASEAN was chaired by Brunei when it snubbed Min Aung Hlaing, but under its annual rotation system, Cambodia now heads the group. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has said he believes it is important that Myanmar attend the next summit meeting. Hun Sen traveled to Myanmar in January, becoming the first foreign leader to visit since the military takeover. He has repeatedly declared his interest in resolving the impasse between ASEAN and Myanmar. Japan’s foreign minister met in Tokyo on Monday with Hun Sen’s son and agreed to cooperate in dealing with the situation in Myanmar. Hun Manet, who heads Cambodia’s army and is Hun Sen’s favored successor, accompanied his father during his visit to Myanmar. Japan has taken a softer line on Myanmar’s military than Western nations that have sanctioned the generals. But in a sign that attitudes in Japan are mixed, Japanese brewery Kirin Holdings announced on Monday that it has decided to withdraw from its business in Myanmar and terminate its joint venture with a military-linked partner. Cambodia’s Chum Sounry said the failure to reach a consensus about inviting Myanmar to this week’s foreign minister’s meeting was due to “little progress in carrying out the ASEAN’s 5-Point Consensus,” agreed to by all the group’s members, including Myanmar. ASEAN leaders at a special meeting last April issued a statement expressing a consensus calling for the immediate cessation of violence, a dialogue among all concerned parties, mediation by an ASEAN special envoy, provision of humanitarian aid through ASEAN channels, and a visit to Myanmar by the special envoy to meet all concerned parties. Myanmar has not rejected the consensus but has done little to implement it. Also read: Dozens arrested to suppress protests on Myanmar anniversary Myanmar’s military council has also continued its harsh military actions against areas of the country where it faces a low-level insurgency, as well as its relentless effort to prosecute Suu Kyi to remove her from political life. Suu Kyi went on trial on Monday on election fraud charges, the latest in a series of criminal prosecutions by the military-run government in which she has already been sentenced to six years in prison. The army said it seized power because of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 general election, an allegation not corroborated by independent election observers. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won the election by a landslide, while the military-backed party did poorly. The military’s takeover prompted widespread peaceful protests and civil disobedience that security forces suppressed with lethal force. About 1,500 civilians have been killed, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Some opponents of the military have turned to armed resistance in response. Suu Kyi, 76, has faced a raft of charges since she was taken into custody. Her supporters and human rights groups say the cases against her are baseless.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the civilian leader of Myanmar who was ousted in a de facto coup this year, was convicted on two charges Monday and handed a four-year sentence that was quickly cut in half — in proceedings widely criticized as a further effort by the country’s military rulers to roll back the democratic gains of recent years. The verdict serves to cement a dramatic reversal of fortunes for the Nobel Peace laureate, who spent 15 years under house arrest for resisting the Southeast Asian nation’s generals but then agreed to work alongside them when they promised to usher in democratic rule. It is only the first in a series of cases brought against the 76-year-old Suu Kyi since her arrest on Feb. 1 — the day the army seized power, claiming massive voting fraud in last year’s election. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won that vote in a landslide, and independent election observers did not detect any major irregularities. The verdict was widely criticized abroad as a farce, and it threatens to inflame tensions further in Myanmar, where resistance to the takeover has been fierce and is increasingly armed in the face of a violent crackdown by the military. Read: UN resolution on Rohingyas a pressure on Myanmar: FM Dr. Sasa, spokesperson for the National Unity Government, an opposition group that has declared itself the country’s shadow administration, called the verdict “a shameful day for the rule of law, justice and accountability in Myanmar” and said it represented an effort to "replace our dreams with military dictatorship forever.” If found guilty of all the charges she faces, Suu Kyi could be sentenced to more than 100 years in prison. She is being held by the military at an unknown location — and state television reported that she would serve her sentence there. That sentence was reduced hours after it was handed down in what the report said was an amnesty ordered by the country’s military leader, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing. The court earlier offered a 10-month reduction in the sentence for time served, according to a legal official, who relayed the verdict to The Associated Press and who insisted on anonymity for fear of being punished by the authorities. The state TV report did not mention any credit for time served. The cases against Suu Kyi are widely seen as contrived to discredit her and keep her from running in the next election. She is widely revered at home for her role in the country’s pro-democracy movement — and was long viewed abroad as an icon of that struggle, epitomized by her 15 years under house arrest. But since her release in 2010, she has been heavily criticized for the gamble she made: showing deference to the military while ignoring and, at times, even defending rights violations — most notably a 2017 crackdown on Rohingya Muslims that rights groups have labeled genocide. Read: Myanmar urged to halt evictions, cease intimidation of residents While she has disputed allegations that army personnel killed Rohingya civilians, torched houses and raped women and she remains immensely popular at home, that stance has tarnished her reputation abroad. On Monday, she faced an incitement charge that centered on statements posted on her party’s Facebook page after she and other party leaders were detained by the military. She was accused of spreading false or inflammatory information that could disturb public order. In addition, she was accused of violating coronavirus restrictions for her appearance at a campaign event ahead of the elections last year. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called the proceedings a “sham trial,” while Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said it was just the beginning of a process that “will most likely ensure that Suu Kyi is never allowed to be a free woman again.” The United States joined others in calling for her release. “The regime’s continued disregard for the rule of law and its widespread use of violence against the Burmese people underscore the urgency of restoring Burma’s path to democracy,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement, using a former name for Myanmar. As is typical, China, a neighbor that has maintained friendly ties with Myanmar’s military leaders, declined to criticize the verdict. Beijing hopes “all parties in Myanmar will bear in mind the long-term interests of the country, narrow differences and carry on the hard-won democratic transition process,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters Monday. Suu Kyi’s trials are closed to the media and spectators, and her lawyers, who had been a source of information on the proceedings, were served with gag orders in October forbidding them from releasing information. Defense lawyers are expected to file appeals in the coming days for Suu Kyi and two colleagues who were also convicted Monday, the legal official who relayed the verdict said. They have argued that Suu Kyi and a co-defendant, former President Win Myint, could not be held responsible for the statements on which the incitement charge was based because they were already in detention when the statements were posted. Win Myint’s sentence was reduced along with Suu Kyi’s. February’s seizure of power was met by nonviolent nationwide demonstrations, which security forces quashed with deadly force. They have killed about 1,300 civilians, according to a detailed tally compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Amid the severe crackdown on peaceful protests, armed resistance has grown in the cities and countryside, to the point that U.N. experts have warned the country is sliding into civil war. Protest marches on Sunday against the military government called for the release of Suu Kyi and others. Decisions in other cases against Suu Kyi are expected next week. The cases against her include the alleged unregistered import and use of walkie-talkies by her security guards; a violation of the Official Secrets Act, in which jailed Australian economist Sean Turnell is a co-defendant; and corruption charges. The military-appointed election commission has also announced it intends to prosecute Suu Kyi and 15 other senior political figures for alleged fraud in the last election, which could result in her party being dissolved. The military says its takeover was lawful and not a coup because the 2008 constitution —implemented under military rule — allows it to take control in certain emergencies. It argues that the 2020 general election contained widespread irregularities and thus constituted such an emergency. The state election commission and independent observers have disputed that there was substantial fraud. Critics also assert that the takeover bypassed the legal process for declaring an emergency.
Southeast Asian leaders began a virtual summit Tuesday, with Myanmar skipping the annual meeting in protest after its top general was shut out for refusing to cooperate in defusing the crisis in his country since the military takeover. The exclusion of Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing was an embarrassment for Myanmar’s military and the harshest rebuke by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and took over the government Feb. 1. Brunei, who is this year’s chair of the 10-member bloc, invited Myanmar’s highest-ranking veteran diplomat, Chan Aye, as a “non-political” representative but she didn’t attend the meeting, two diplomats said. The diplomats requested anonymity as they are not authorized to speak to the media. Read: ASEAN leaders hold summit with Myanmar’s general shut out Myanmar’s Foreign Ministry vowed late Monday to challenge ASEAN’s unprecedented move to downgrade its participation in the three-day summit, which is being held by video due to coronavirus concerns. It said it has informed Brunei that it can only accept participation by the general, who now heads Myanmar’s government and ruling military council, or a ministerial-level representative. The talks will be joined by other world leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden and the leaders of China and Russia, and are expected to spotlight Myanmar’s worsening crisis and the pandemic as well as security and economic issues. ASEAN’s sanctioning of Myanmar marked a shift from the bloc's bedrock principles of non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs and deciding by consensus. Myanmar cited the violation of those principles — enshrined in the group’s charter — when it rejected ASEAN's ban on its military leader from the summit. Read:ASEAN downgrades Myanmar presence in summit in major rebuke Myanmar's absence at the summit follows an impasse over ASEAN's envoy to Myanmar, Brunei Second Foreign Minister Erywan Yusof, who was denied permission by the military to meet with Suu Kyi and other government leaders detained since the Feb. 1 takeover. ASEAN leaders agreed on a five-point contingency plan in an emergency meeting in April in Indonesia that was attended by Min Aung Hlaing. They called for an immediate end to violence in the country and the start of dialogue to be mediated by the ASEAN envoy, who should be allowed to meet all parties. But Myanmar's commitment to the plan is in doubt. ASEAN has been under pressure to help end the crisis in Myanmar, where the military’s efforts to quash opposition have triggered increasingly violent and destabilizing resistance. Almost 1,200 civilians are estimated to have been killed by security forces. The government says a smaller number of people were killed and that security forces have acted to restore order amid what it describes as terrorism and arson.