Burma: resistance escalates as Suu Kyi sentenced

burma protest

Ousted Burmese state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, 76, was found guilty Dec. 6 of “incitement” and breaking COVID restrictions—but the first of a series of 11 charges that could see her imprisoned for life, with potential combined terms of up to 100 years. For these initial two charges, she was given a four-year sentence; junta chief Min Aung Hlaing ordered it reduced it to two years. Deposed president Win Myint, 69, convicted on the same charges, also had his sentence commuted from four years to two. They will each be able to serve the two years at their undisclosed “current place of detention,” where they have been held since the February coup d’etat. (BBC News, Myanmar Now, The Irrawady)

Despite harsh repression, protests continue against the junta—now usually organized through social media as “flash mobs.” On Dec. 5, a military truck rammed into a crowd of protesters at Kyimyindaing township in Yangon. Soldiers then opened fire on the fleeing protesters, and beat the injured who had fallen to the ground with their rifle butts. At least five were killed and several injured. Troops also reportedly aimed their rifles at people watching from their apartments. Video footage shows marchers holding a large banner reading “FREEDOM FROM FEAR” moments before the truck ploughs through their ranks from behind. The incident was condemned by the UN resident coordinator in Burma.

Since February’s coup, more than 1,200 people have been killed during protests and thousands more imprisoned. (BBC News, NYT, Myanmar Now, Jurist)

The armed resistance network known as the People’s Defense Force (PDF) has meanwhile carved out a liberated zone in the northern Irrawaddy plains. Thousands of locals have fled their homes amid attacks by junta soldiers as part of Operation Anawrahta, a military campaign aimed at crushing the armed resistance in Chin state and Sagaing and Magway regions. (See map) (Myanmar Now)

Photo: Myanmar Now

  1. Suu Kyi sentenced to four more years in prison

    A court in Naypyitaw sentenced ousted Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi to four more years in prison on Jan. 10 for possessing “illegally imported” walkie-talkies and violating Covid-19 restrictions, court sources said. Suu Kyi was handed two years under the Export-Import Law and one year under the Telecommunications Law, both charges relating to the walkie-talkies seized during a pre-dawn raid on her home as the military coup unfolded last February. Those sentences will be served concurrently.

    Suu Kyi, 76, also received a two-year sentence under the Natural Disaster Management Law for allegedly violating Covid-19 rules during her 2020 election campaign.

    The deposed State Counsellor received a four-year prison term in early December for incitement and a separate violation of Covid-19 restrictions during the election. The junta deducted two years from her sentence later the same day. (Myanmar Now)

  2. Suu Kyi sentenced to five more years in prison

    A court in Burma convicted the country’s former leader Aung San Suu Kyi of corruption and sentenced her to five years in prison. The conviction was based largely on the testimony of the former chief minister of Yangon, Burma’s largest city, who publicly confessed last year that he had delivered $600,000 in cash and about 25 pounds of gold to her in shopping bags. The public and media were barred from the closed-door trial in the capital Naypyidaw, and Suu Kyi’s lawyers forbidden from speaking to journalists. Suu Kyi has called the charge “absurd.” 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. (AP, NYT, BBC)

  3. Suu Kyi sentenced to six more years in prison

    A Burmese court Aug. 15 sentenced former state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi to an additional six years in prison after she was found guilty of corruption charges. This new conviction increases her total prison sentence to 17 years. A special court in Naypyitaw Prison found that Aung San Suu Kyi misused her power to rent public land and that she also diverted charitable donations to build a personal residence. (Jurist)

  4. Burma junta releases 5,700 prisoners

    The military-controlled government of Burma Nov. 17 announced the release of some 5,700 prisoners. Among those released are Japanese documentary film maker Toru Kubota, former UK ambassador to Myanmar Vicky Bowman, American agricultural scientist Kyaw Htay Oo and numerous local personalities. Australian Sean Turnell was also amongst those granted amnesty. He served as advisor to Aung San Suu Kyi before her overthrow in 2021.

    These released prisoners had been detained under a section of the Myanmar Penal Code § 505(a) that was revised shortly after the military takeover to encompass broad offenses. According to the code, “Whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour or report with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, any officer, soldier, sailor or airman, in the Army, Navy or Air Force to mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty” is guilty of a criminal offense. The revised language resulted in a crackdown on any speech considered to be anti-military or anti-regime.

    The prisoner release comes days after Human Rights Watch urged governments to acknowledge Burma’s human rights record of “widespread and systematic abuses.” Since 2021, over 16,000 individuals are thought to have been detained by the military. A report by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), estimates that about 13,000 individuals remain detained, and some 2,500 have been killed. However, the true scope of political prisoners in the country is unclear. Access to trial proceedings and prisoner records are tightly restricted by the government. (Jurist)

  5. Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to a further seven years

    A Burmese military court has sentenced Aung San Suu Kyi to a further seven years in prison, taking her overall prison time to 33 years. The country’s former democratically-elected leader has been under house arrest since a military ousted her government in a coup in February 2021. Since then she’s faced 18 months of trials on 19 charges – which rights groups say are a sham. The UN Security Council called for her release last week.

    On Dec. 23 she was sentenced on the final five charges she faced. A court found her guilty of corruption because she had not followed regulations in renting a helicopter for a government minister. She had already been convicted of 14 different crimes including breaching COVID public safety rules, importing walkie-talkies and violating the official secrets act. (BBC News)

  6. Burma junta releases 7,000 prisoners?

    Burmese state broadcaster MRTV reported Jan. 3 that 7,012 prisoners, including political detainees, are to be released by the military-controlled government in commemoration of the nation’s independence day. But rights observers are expressing some skepticism about the move. Local news outlets report that Dr. Min Htet Paing, a political detainee at Myeik prison, was rearrested directly after the independence day release. (Jurist)