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Myanmar junta reduces Suu Kyi jail sentence to 2 years

December 6, 2021

The charges included incitement against the military and violating COVID regulations. The first ruling since her ousting and arrest following a military coup was met with global outrage.

Myanmar nationals living in Thailand hold pictures of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi
Image: Sakchai Lalit/AP Photo/picture alliance

Myanmar's ruling junta on Monday said ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi would be jailed for two years instead of four for inciting unrest and breaching pandemic restrictions, state media reported.

Former President Win Myint was also sentenced under the same charges, and will now face two years in prison. 

The junta had originally sentenced Suu Kyi and Win to four years, but later announced the reduced sentence; state media referred to it as a partial pardon from the country's military chief, Min Aung Hlaing.

"They will face other charges from the places where they are staying now," Myanmar junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun said earlier Monday.

The ruling was scheduled to be given Tuesday last week, but was deferred. It is the first ruling since Suu Kyi's ousting and arrest following a military coup on February 1.

The former Nobel laureate also faces several other charges that could see her spend the rest of her life in prison if convicted on all counts.

What are the reactions to the verdict?

The verdict was met with widespread condemnation around the world.

"The harsh sentences handed down to Aung San Suu Kyi on these bogus charges are the latest example of the military's determination to eliminate all opposition and suffocate freedoms in Myanmar," said Amnesty International in a statement.

The EU's diplomat Josep Borrell called the verdict "politically motivated."

"The European Union reiterates its urgent calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners as well as those arbitrarily detained since the coup," Borrell said.

UN chief Michelle Bachelet said that the court that convicted Suu Kyi had conducted a "sham trial."

"The military is attempting to instrumentalize the courts to remove all political opposition," said Bachelet.

UK foreign secretary Liz Truss called the sentence an "appaling attempt by Myanmar’s military regime to stifle opposition" and demanded the release of political prisoners.

"The arbitrary detention of elected politicians only risks further unrest," she added.

Aye Min Thant, a Myanmar journalist currently based in Bangkok, told DW that the jailing of Suu Kyi is likely to bolster the pro-democracy campaign in the country.

"Now we've seen a parallel government spring up, we've seen a huge civil disobedience movement," Aye Min Thant said.

"I don't think this verdict was a surprise to most people. I think people had planned to continue the resistance without having Aung San Suu Kyi as a leader."

What were the changes against Aung San Suu Kyi?

Days after the coup, Suu Kyi was charged with possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies and signal-jammers, as well as with violating coronavirus restrictions during the 2020 elections.

Afterward, the military added a number of other charges, including violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act and "electoral fraud and lawless actions." She is also accused of having accepted illegal payments worth $600,000 (€493,000) in cash and 11.4 kilograms of gold bars.

In February, Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party allegedly sent international organizations a letter urging them not to recognize the military government, which has prompted the junta to charge her with intent to incite.

Who is Aung San Suu Kyi?

Suu Kyi led the NLD to victory in the 2015 general election, the first democratic vote in Myanmar in 25 years.

Between 1989 and 2012, she spent a total of 15 years under house arrest. While confined to her family's colonial-era mansion in Yangon, Suu Kyi would appear to thousands gathered on the other side of her garden fence.

She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 in recognition of her struggle for democracy.

What is the situation in Myanmar?

Myanmar's junta has been grappling with protests, strikes and armed resistance by militias since the overthrow of the Suu Kyi government. According to a local monitoring group, more than 1,200 people have been killed and over 10,000 arrested in a crackdown on dissent.

On Sunday, an army vehicle barreled into an anti-junta march and reportedly killed three people, according to witnesses and an organizer of the march.

Also on Sunday, Myanmar’s junta chief Min Aung Hlaing sat down with two high-level NLD members, Tin Oo and Khin Nyunt. Other NLD members criticized the meeting and claimed that the junta was intending to use it to its political advantage.

sdi, wmr/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP)