Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 397, 16 June 2021

Myanmar: The Aung San Suu Kyi trial begins
Vibha Venugopal

In the news
On 14 June, the trial of Myanmar's ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, begun. The lawyers of Suu Kyi said they struggled to gain access to their client and expect that the trial will wrap up by 26 July.

It was initially only for five out of six charges; however, on 10 June, she was handed corruption charges against her over illegally accepting USD 600,000 in cash and approximately 11kg of gold which sums up her charges to seven in total. The hearing took place inside the capital Naypyidaw's council compound, where no media presence was allowed, and only heavy police presence was permitted to guard.

The leader of her legal team, Khin Maung Zaw, in a statement to Al Jazeera, said the latest accusation is "absurd" and "groundless." "She might have defects, but personal greed and corruption is not her traits," he said, calling her "incorruptible."

Issues at large
First, the charges against Aung San Suu Kyi. They include corruption, violation of the official secrets act, illegally owning walkie talkies, breaching the country's telecommunication law, violating the natural disaster law, and inciting public unrest. In addition, the military looks at piling more cases on her to ensure that she would not participate in any election in the distant future. 

Second, the charges against the NLD. The military has detained other members of the party, including President U Win Myint, cabinet ministers, chief ministers of various regions, opposition politicians, writers, and activists. The military has been accusing the NLD of vote fraud in the past and now have again accused them of weapons arsenal, stating that they are either grooming terrorists or training civilians on using them.

Third, the inadequate international responses. The UN deputy spokesman said: "We want her and all top members of her administration to be freed." In a similar statement the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, warned that more violence is on the way in Myanmar and urged the international community to hold the regime accountable. The G7 countries have pledged their "support to those advocating peacefully for a stable and inclusive democracy" and warned of pursuing "additional measures should they prove necessary," hinting at the possibility of additional sanctions. However, these responses have not made an impact within Myanmar so far.

Fourth, the regime's refusal to yield to international pressure. Despite multiple statements, warnings and sanctions, the regime has not yielded to any of them. Instead, it has increased its grip and expanded its actions to curb the return of democracy in Myanmar.

In perspective
The international responses have not impacted the ground, and the regime continues to go ahead with its agenda. For the ousted leader Suu Kyi and the other senior members of the party, time is running out. Most of them are in their 70's; any long jail term, or the prolonging of military rule would impact the return of democracy and independent leadership. Perhaps, that is what the military is looking at - buying time to perpetuate its hold over Myanmar.

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