Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced to yet another bout of four years in prison. She was on Monday found guilty of illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, apart from violating coronavirus restrictions. The charges against her are clearly contrived. More basically, they are intended to legitimise the military’s seizure of power and prevent her from returning to politics. She was convicted last month on two other charges. The cases are among about a dozen brought against the 76-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner after the army seized power last February, ousted her elected government, and arrested senior members of her party, the National League for Democracy. If she is found guilty of all the charges, she could be sentenced to more than 100 years in prison ~ an absurdity by itself. Monday’s verdict in a court in the capital, Naypyitaw, was conveyed by a legal official who insisted on anonymity for fear of being punished by authorities, who have restricted the release of information about Suu Kyi’s trials. The military is said to have reverted to what they call “scorched-earth” tactics amidst nationwide crackdowns. She was sentenced to two years in prison under the Export-Import Law for importing the walkie-talkies and one year under the Telecommunications Law for possessing them.
The sentences are to be served concurrently. She also received a two-year sentence under the Natural Disaster Management Law for allegedly violating coronavirus rules while campaigning. Suu Kyi was convicted last month on two other charges ~ incitement and breaching Covid-19 restrictions ~ and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment. Hours after that sentence was issued, the head of the military-installed government, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, reduced it by half.
Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory in a 2020 general election, but the military claimed there was widespread electoral fraud, an assertion that independent poll watchers doubt. Since her first guilty verdict, she has been attending court hearings in prison clothes ~ a white top and a brown longyi skirt provided by authorities. She is being held by the military at an unknown location, where she would serve her sentence, according to state television. The hearings are closed to the media and spectators and the prosecutors do not comment. Her lawyers, who had been a source of information on the proceedings, were served with gag orders in October.
The military-installed government has not allowed any outside party to meet with Suu Kyi since it seized power, despite international pressure for talks that could ease the country’s violent political crisis. The military’s seizure of power was greeted with nonviolent nationwide demonstrations, which security forces quashed with deadly force, killing over 1,400 civilians, according to a detailed list compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Peaceful protests have continued, but amidst the severe crackdown, an armed resistance has also grown, to the point that UN experts have warned the country could be sliding into civil war.