Aung San Suu Kyi found guilty in Myanmar ahead of Biden summit

A court has sentenced ousted Myanmar civilian leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to five years in prison. Wednesday after being found guilty of corruption for receiving about $1.3 million in gold bars and cash from a close political ally.

The verdict was based largely on the testimony of a former chief minister of Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, who publicly admitted last year to giving her $600,000 in cash and about 25 pounds of gold in shopping bags.

Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, whose trial was closed to the public and the media, called the accusation “absurd”. The court barred her lawyers from speaking publicly about the case. Her exile in Myanmar has shocked other Southeast Asian countries and is expected to be a major topic of discussion. during President Biden’s meeting with regional leaders in Washington next month.

Supporters of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who are familiar with the trial, said the prosecution did not provide any evidence – other than testimonies – that she received the gold bars and currency.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who was arrested on February 1, 2021 when the military launched a coup d’état, has been charged with 17 counts, which her lawyers say are fabricated.

She had previously been convicted on five lesser charges and sentenced to six years in prison. If found guilty on all remaining counts, including nine more charges of corruption, she faces up to 163 years in prison.

The military, which ruled the country for almost 50 years before allowing civilians to start sharing power in 2010, seized full control again last year and arrested hundreds of elected officials, most of whom remain in prison.

Massive protests broke out and the military responded by shooting civilians in the streets. A nationwide strike against the junta has crippled the economy and the health care system in much of the country has collapsed.

Security forces have killed at least 1,798 civilians since the coup, and the regime is holding more than 10,300 political prisoners, according to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners.

In the countryside, the military bombed rebel strongholds and set fire to villages, driving thousands of people into the jungle. Hundreds of armed resistance groups marched against the Tatmadaw, as the military is called in Myanmar.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was convicted of corruption a year after leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations met in Indonesia with coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and laid out a five-point plan to end the violence. , start a dialogue and provide humanitarian assistance.

But the junta has yet to take any action, and ASEAN has been ineffective in putting pressure on the regime.

ASEAN-appointed Special Envoys were not allowed to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The envoys also did not meet with the pro-democracy government of national unity, which was formed by elected officials who escaped arrest and ethnic group leaders who had long opposed military rule.

The ASEAN Parliamentarians’ Human Rights Group, made up of current and former MPs, said the five-point consensus had failed and it was time for Southeast Asian leaders to take a more aggressive stance, including suspending Myanmar’s ASEAN membership and imposing sanctions and a ban to enter against the leaders of the junta.

“The question to ASEAN leaders now is: will you allow the military to continue to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity and threaten the human security and economic development of the region for another year?” the band asked in a statement marking the anniversary on Sunday.

During her earlier period of military rule, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi became an international icon of democracy and spent a total of 15 years under house arrest from 1989 to 2010. She won the Nobel Peace Prize and led her party, the National League for Democracy won three landslide victories, but was only allowed to form a government once, in 2015.

The military forbade her to become president, and she received the title of State Councilor. But she damaged her global reputation by not speaking out against the Tatmadaw’s brutal ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in 2017.

After the coup, she was kept under house arrest at unknown locations near Naypyidaw, the capital. Her trials are taking place in a house in Naypyidaw that has been converted into a courtroom. Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, 76, was previously convicted of possessing walkie-talkies, violating Covid-19 protocols and inciting public disorder. The court could sentence her to 15 years in prison on charges of corruption.

The main witness against her in the corruption case was U Pyo Min Thein, a former Chief Minister of Yangon and a prominent party leader and fundraiser.

In television recognition shortly after the coup, he said he visited Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at her home three times in 2017 and 2018 and each time brought her bags of gold bars, stacks of $100 bills, expensive silks and food.

He said he gave her gifts to win her favor and said she could use the money for her “personal needs” to fund the National League for Democracy or the Do Khin Kyi Foundation, a charity she founded. in her mother’s name.