Conflict Alerts # 469, 12 January 2022
In the news
On 10 January, Myanmar's ousted leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi was sentenced to four years in jail for possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies and breaking coronavirus rules by a court in Myanmar. This is an additional charge levied over a series of previously laid down offences. On the same day, in a statement to the AFP news agency, the Junta spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun confirmed the verdicts and sentences, informing that Suu Kyi would remain in house arrest while the proceedings of the other cases are on. The White House spokesperson Ned Price called the convictions "an affront to justice and the rule of law" and it demanded the release of Suu Kyi and other political detainees.
Issues at large
First, the cases against Aung Sang Suu Kyi. Since the coup in February 2021, she has been sentenced with a two-year sentence for breaching the export-import law by importing and owning walkie-talkies and one year for having a set of signal jammers. Both sentences will run concurrently. The court also further issued a two-year sentence for breaching the natural disaster management law related to coronavirus rules while campaigning. The conviction was built on an earlier ruling from December 2021, when Suu Kyi was sentenced to four years.
Second, the regime's end game vis-a-vis Aung Sang and the National League for Democracy (NLD). Since the coup, many of her political allies have been arrested and jailed on charges of alleged electoral fraud during the 2020 polls. This detention and targeting describe how the junta has been trying to grip its hold over the country, signalling the end of 10 years of tentative political reforms followed by decades of strict military rule.
Third, the failure of regional and international responses. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated: "The conviction of the State Counsellor following a sham trial in secretive proceedings before a military-controlled court is nothing but politically motivated." ASEAN has also sorted to use its influence in the crisis now, but with Hun Sen's visit, the Cambodian chair to the regional bloc has drawn criticisms. Unfortunately, these responses seem to be the same old that have not impacted Myanmar like the earlier cases.
The regime continues to grow stronger by ignoring the international responses and continuing its vendetta against Suu Kyi, which involves viewing more cases and increased jail terms for her and her party members. Irrespective of the regime being called out to engage in constructive dialogue and serve the people's aspirations, this violent process seems to continue owing as a hindrance to the restoration of democracy in the near future of Myanmar.