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INTERNATIONAL > South & Central Asia

Editorial: Myanmar’s scripted ‘guilty’ ruling on Suu Kyi is unacceptable

  • December 8, 2021
  • , Nikkei Asia , 2:35 p.m.
  • English Press

Myanmar’s former State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced to a four-year prison term. The pro-democracy leader was detained after the military took control of the Southeast Asian country in February, and faces over 10 charges overall.


The case was heard by a military-appointed court, which clearly assumed Suu Kyi’s guilt from the start. The ruling is unfair and totally unacceptable.


Suu Kyi was found guilty of violating Myanmar’s natural disaster management law as well as its criminal code. The former was a claim that she violated COVID-19 restrictions during last year’s general election campaign. The latter was an allegation that her National League for Democracy party caused social unrest by issuing a statement criticizing the military takeover.


Common sense dictates that such offenses do not warrant four years in prison, and the ruling was undoubtedly politically motivated. A lack of transparency is another issue, with hearings closed to the public and Suu Kyi’s legal team ordered not to speak to the media.


Shortly after the court issued its ruling, military leader Min Aung Hlaing issued a pardon, halving Suu Kyi’s term to two years. But she faces more charges, including for corruption and for violating an official secrets law. She could face over 100 years in prison if found guilty on all charges.


The military justifies its takeover with claims of fraud in the November 2020 general election, which the NLD won in a landslide. It has pledged to hold another election by August 2023, but Suu Kyi and the NLD are clearly being forced off the political stage. The military is also looking to change the electoral system to favor its affiliate party, likely so it could claim Myanmar’s return to democracy while maintaining a grip on power.


The death toll from the military’s crackdown on civilian protesters has already topped 1,300, human-rights groups estimate. Meanwhile, Myanmar’s parallel government, formed by the ousted democratically elected leaders, has called for open revolt, and many military-linked figures have been killed.


The military must wake up to the fact that forcing an election amid such turmoil is not going to win acceptance, domestically or internationally.


The military government is growing increasingly isolated on the global stage, shut out of international gatherings such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. For any breakthrough to happen, the military must first allow ASEAN’s special envoy to meet Suu Kyi and explore a path of dialogue. 

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