Myanmar’s Suu Kyi gets 6 more years in jail in corruption cases

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi gets 6 more years in jail in corruption cases

FILE PHOTO: Protesters shout slogans and hold photos of executed prisoners during a demonstration against the Myanmar military junta’s execution of four prisoners, outside the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok on July 26, 2022. (AFP)

Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to six more years in prison on Monday in a judgment that could further anger supporters of the 77-year-old Nobel peace prize laureate.

A special court inside a prison compound in the capital Naypyidaw found her guilty of four corruption charges related to a charity named after her late mother, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because the proceedings aren’t public. It’s the fourth round of criminal verdicts against Suu Kyi since the military seized power in a 2021 coup and brings her total jail term to 17 years, extinguishing any chance of her staging a political comeback while the junta remain in power.

Mandalay Region High Court Judge Myint San ruled that Suu Kyi caused the State to lose more than 24.2 billion kyat ($13 million) by leasing land in Naypyidaw to build the headquarters and related projects of Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, a charity which supported public health and education, at a cheaper price than the rate set by the Internal Revenue Department, according to people familiar with the matter and state media.

Earlier court sentences triggered public anger and intensified armed resistance led by the shadow National Unity Government. Junta troops have killed nearly 2,200 civilians and arrested more than 15,000 others since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which this month said that prisoners in the country are suffering human rights violations.

The junta had accused the deposed leader of misusing public donations to the foundation to build her residence in Naypyidaw and accepting bribes worth $550,0000 from a businessman as a donation to the charity in 2019 and 2020. Suu Kyi denied all allegations and pleaded “not guilty.”

Three other senior officials, including deposed Naypyidaw mayor Myo Aung and his deputy Ye Min Oo, were sentenced to three years each in prison for the same charges, the person said. Major General Zaw Min Tun, lead spokesman of the ruling State Administration Council, didn’t immediately answer calls seeking comment on the ruling.

Earlier, Suu Kyi was sentenced a total of 11 years in prison by the same court for six charges, including illegally importing and possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies, breaking Covid rules and inciting dissent against the military. She has called the allegations “absurd”, while her supporters say the charges are politically motivated.

The nation’s democracy icon was moved from her residence to an unknown location before her first trial began in camera in a state-owned compound in June 2021. A year later, she was shifted to a military-built solitary confinement unit in Naypyidaw Prison. Journalists are not allowed to witness the court proceedings and Suu Kyi’s lawyers are banned from speaking to the media.

Suu Kyi faces nine more charges, including violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act and abuse of power to ensure her political party won the 2020 elections. If she’s found guilty, the remaining charges could add a maximum of 122 years more to her sentence if served consecutively.

The US and allies have imposed sanctions on Myanmar military generals and supporters since the coup. Even other member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have been reluctant to cooperate with Myanmar after the junta executed four pro-democracy activists in its first use of capital punishment in over three decades.

Last week, Asean foreign ministers said in a joint statement they were “deeply disappointed” by the limited progress in and lack of commitment of Myanmar authorities to the timely and complete implementation of a five-point consensus agreed earlier by Min Aung Hlaing, the military chief who seized power in the 2021 coup.

The United States condemned the latest sentence handed to Aung San Suu Kyi.

“The Burma military regime’s unjust arrest, conviction, and sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi is an affront to justice and the rule of law,” a State Department spokesperson said, using the country’s former name.