33 years in prison for former Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi

A key figure in Burma since the late 80s and winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, Aung San Suu Kyi, 77, was sentenced to 33 years in prison after a trial before a military court of the junta. The charges included corruption, electoral fraud, violations of state secrets and anti-Covid 19 restrictions among other charges.

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Aung San Suu Kyi

Politics as a Legacy

The daughter of General Aung San, who had been instrumental in the negotiation for Burmese independence but assassinated by a political rival before the country was officially free, Aung San Suu Kyi had a childhood punctuated by dramas.

After the murder of her father when she was only 2 years old, she lost a brother 6 years later. In the mid-50s, her mother, Khin Kyi, began to engage in politics and was eventually appointed Burma’s ambassador to India in 1960.

An International Career

Aung San Suu Kyi joined her mother in Delhi to finish high school before studying philosophy, economics and politics at Oxford University from 1964 to 1968. Her next stop will take her to New York, where she will work for 3 years at the UN as Deputy-Secretary of the Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Matters.

However, she chose to return to Burma in 1988 to care for her mother. The year of her return coincided with the organization of pro-democracy demonstrations throughout the country to protest against the then ruling Socialist Party. These demonstrations were violently repressed by the new military junta that had taken control of the country.

The Political Fight

Upon her return to Burma, she supported the demonstrators and decided to create with former generals a new party called the National League for Democracy (NLD) which called for democratic reforms. In July 1989, Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested for disturbing public order and placed under house arrest. She stayed there for 6 years.

This did not prevent the NLD from making remarkable progress at the political level, as it won the 1990 general elections, thus becoming the de facto majority party in the Assembly. However, this result will not be recognized by the military junta and elected deputies were not allowed to sit. During this period of isolation, she received several international prizes including the Nobel Prize.

She was eventually allowed to leave her home in 1995, but her freedom of movement continued to be restricted. For example, she chose not to leave Burma to go to her husband’s funeral for fear of not being able to return to Myanmar. Military intimidation is also part of his daily life. However, she enjoys significant international support, particularly in the United States and England.

The Exercice of Power

Allowed to stand for the first time in a legislative election, she officially became an MP in May 2012. This success is confirmed in 2015. However, she could not stand in the presidential election the following year because of a constitutional provision that disqualified any candidate married to a foreigner, and she was the widow of a British citizen. One of her closest supporters won the election and appointed her special adviser, entrusting her with a super-portfolio of various ministries (education, electricity, energy, foreign affairs…).

The parliamentary elections of November 2020 are a total victory for the NLD which wo, 82% of the vote. However, The army viewed this result fraudulent and overthrew the elected government on February 1st, 2021 and placed Aung San Suu Kyi  under arrest again.

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Protest against the military coup of 2021

During a trial before a special court, sitting in camera, the junta claims to have discovered millions of irregular ballots favorable to the NLD party. She was also accused of embezzling public funds to rent an aircraft. After 18 months of legal proceedings, she was sentenced to 33 years in prison in total.

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Supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi during her trial

The Perception at the International Level

Extremely popular at home and appreciated abroad, it should be noted, however, that under the leadership of her party, Burma/Myanmar has been accused on numerous occasions of organizing a genocide of the Rohingya population. A UN report had documented the acts of torture and violence suffered by members of this community. A trial is pending before the International Court of Justice.

Aung Sang Suu Kyi’s sentencing has been heavily criticized. The European Union denounced this judgment, synonymous with “general dismantling of democracy and the rule of law“. The United States called for her release “the final conviction of State Councillor Aung San Suu Kyi by the Burmese military regime is an affront to justice and the rule of law.” She could possibly appeal this decision.

December 30th, 2022