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Suu Kyi sentenced

A court in the military-ruled country has sentenced her to five years in jail after finding the civilian leader guilty in the first of 11 corruption cases instituted against her.

SNS | New Delhi |

The screws have been tightened further still, and this time it might imply curtains on Aung San Suu Kyi’s spirited movement for the restoration of democracy in Myanmar. A court in the military-ruled country has sentenced her to five years in jail after finding the civilian leader guilty in the first of 11 corruption cases instituted against her. The sentence was announced in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyidaw, on Wednesday. The judge is reported to have handed down the verdict within moments of the court convening. The case centred on allegations that Suu Kyi, 76, accepted 11.4 kg of gold and cash payments totalling $600,000 from her protege-turned-accuser, the former Yangon chief minister Phyo Min Thein. She has denied the charges and binned the allegations as “absurd”. 

The Nobel laureate, who led Myanmar for five years before being forced out of office when the military seized power in a coup in February 2021, has been charged with at least 18 offences, which carry a combined maximum jail term approaching 190 years if she is found guilty. She has already been sentenced to six years of imprisonment in other cases. It was not immediately clear if Suu Kyi would be transferred to a prison. She has been held in an undisclosed location, where Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said she could remain after earlier guilty verdicts in other cases. The international community has dismissed the trials as farcical and has demanded her immediate release. Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at the Human Rights Watch, has condemned Wednesday’s verdict. “The days of Aung San Suu Kyi as a free woman are effectively over,” he said in a tweet. 

“Myanmar’s junta and the country’s kangaroo courts are walking in lockstep to put Aung San Suu Kyi away for what could ultimately be the equivalent of a life sentence, given her advanced age. Destroying democracy in Myanmar also means getting rid of Aung San Suu Kyi, and the junta is leaving nothing to chance.” Wednesday’s sentence would thus appear to be integral to the essay about the destruction of democracy. 

Suu Kyi for long perceived as the icon of democracy, most particularly during her long stint in incarceration, has been embroiled in legal cases by the junta to effectively kill any chances of her political comeback. The judge advanced no explanation for the latest sentence. The trial was held behind closed doors, with information on proceedings restricted. Nominally, Suu Kyi led Myanmar for a short period of what they call “tentative democracy”, but did so with one hand tied behind her back. The predominance of the military is confirmed given that it has ruled Myan- mar for five of the past six decades. And yet Myanmar being Myanmar, it might be premature to craft an obituary on her political trials and tribulations quite yet. At least her supporters will hope there is a change in her and Myanmar’s fortunes.