By James Moules
POLITICIANS and activists have criticised the sentencing of Myanmar’s former State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi by the military regime as a move to further suppress the country’s democracy.
The Myanmar military staged a coup on February 1, 2021, ousting the democratically elected government and detaining top officials including Suu Kyi.
The coup led to widespread demonstrations across Myanmar against the military regime, which in turn has launched a brutal crackdown against the protestors. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, more than 1,000 civilians have been killed in the repression.
Suu Kyi was sentenced to four years in prison by the courts on December 6, 2021 on charges of incitement of dissent and breaching Covid rules – charges which are widely deemed to be politically motivated. Her sentence has subsequently been reduced to two years.
The sentencing has been met with widespread condemnation, with many observers describing it as a tightening of the military’s grip on power.
British Labour MP Catherine West, Shadow Minister for Asia and the Pacific, told Redaction Report: “Today’s decision is a dark day for the people of Myanmar and is a further example of the regime’s attempts to throttle the will of the people.
“The UK government must urgently work with regional partners to make it clear to the regime, and its backers, that the continued detention of political prisoners is wholly unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
The UK’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss also said: “The sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi is another appalling attempt by Myanmar’s military regime to stifle opposition and suppress freedom and democracy.
“The United Kingdom calls on the regime to release political prisoners, engage in dialogue and allow a return to democracy.
“The arbitrary detention of elected politicians only risks further unrest.”
Aung San Suu Kyi was a key figure in the 1988 uprising against the previous military regime. She was detained by the military between 1989 and 2010.
Following the transition to democracy, her party won a landslide victory in the November 2015 elections. She assumed the role of State Counsellor in 2016.
While receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, her time in high office was marred in controversy for her approach to the Rohingya crisis.
Suu Kyi was accused of inaction in the face of mass persecution of the nation’s Muslim minority.
Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns Ming Yu Hah said: “There are many detainees without the profile of Aung San Suu Kyi who currently face the terrifying prospect of years behind bars simply for peacefully exercising their human rights. They must not be forgotten and left to their fate.
“As violence escalates, displacing tens of thousands of people and setting up a humanitarian crisis in the middle of an ongoing pandemic, the situation in Myanmar today is alarming in the extreme.
“Without a decisive, unified and swift international response this can and will get worse.”
Myanmar’s embassy in the UK was contacted for comment.
Featured Image: Chris McAndrew (credit) (CC BY 3.0)
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