Condemnation as Former Myanmar Leader Suu Kyi Sentenced in ‘Sham Trials’

First two verdicts of eleven . . .

On Monday, Myanmar’s military-controlled court found deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi guilty of inciting dissent and breaking COVID-19 rules. While Suu Kyi is set to serve two years on these charges, she faces a litany of more serious indictments, including corruption and violation of the Official Secrets Act. If convicted, the 76-year-old could face 102 years behind bars. Little is known about the trial proceedings, as journalists are banned from the courts and defence lawyers are prevented from speaking to the media. However, observers agree the charges are politically motivated, and many countries, including Canada, have strongly condemned the trial. The military government has repeatedly tried to eliminate all opposition and justify its power grab on unsubstantiated grounds that the November 2020 election, a landslide victory for the National League for Democracy led by Suu Kyi, was fraudulent.

Military pouring fuel on the fire . . .

Ahead of the sentencing, witnesses and local media reported that a military truck drove into an anti-coup protest in the country’s economic centre, Yangon, on Sunday. Soldiers opened fire, reportedly killing five demonstrators, and injuring several others. Since the declaration of a “defensive war” in September by the National Unity Government, Myanmar’s parallel government composed of former elected lawmakers, the frequency of attacks on the junta and its personnel has increased. Suu Kyi’s subsequent guilty verdicts seem likely to instigate further resistance and perpetuate the cycle of oppression and violence. Since the February 1st coup, an estimated 1,300 people have been killed by the junta, and more than 10,000 have been arrested.

Ostracized or improved ties?

Deliberate attacks on civilians and the blatant violation of the rule of law by the junta has cemented a commitment by many in the country to armed resistance to overthrow the regime. While the political and economic situation in Myanmar continues to rapidly deteriorate, it is unclear if the military will buckle under domestic pressure. Meanwhile, hopes for an ASEAN-mediated political resolution may need to be tempered. Although the regional bloc excluded junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing from its annual summit over his failure to implement steps towards ending Myanmar’s ongoing crisis, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen met with the junta-appointed foreign minister on Tuesday in Phnom Penh. With Cambodia as Chair of ASEAN for 2022, analysts expect the bloc’s stance against Myanmar will soften.