Myanmar military court sentences Aung San Suu Kyi to 5 more years in jail

A military court sentenced deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi to five years in jail on Wednesday finding her guilty of corruption in closed-door proceedings, a source familiar with the trial said.

In the first of 11 corruption cases against the 76-year-old Nobel laureate, the judge in the capital Naypyidaw pronounced her guilty minutes after the trial opened, within moments of the court convening, said the source, who declined to be identified for security reasons

The former State Counselor’s lawyers have been barred since October by Myanmar’s military rulers from releasing information or speaking publicly about the two cases being tried.

The junta-controlled court said Aung San Suu Kyi had violated section 55 of the Anti-corruption Law in a case that alleged she accepted 11.4 kg (402 oz) of gold and cash payments totaling $600,000 from former Yangon chief minister Phyo Min Thein.

She has rejected all allegations, which her supporters, rights groups and foreign governments have condemned as political charges aimed at ending her career. Last year she said allegations she took payments from Phyo Min Thein "just bogus ones borne out of imaginations.”

Aung San Su Kyi, whose National League for Democracy (NLD) ruled the country for five years and won re-election in November 2020 in a landslide vote that the army refused to honor, was sentenced in January to six years for violating export-import laws, the communications law, and the natural disaster management law.

“Myanmar’s junta and the country’s kangaroo courts are walking in lockstep to put Aung San Suu Kyi away for what could ultimately be the equivalent of a life sentence, given her advanced age,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“This conviction on bogus corruption charges just piles on more years behind bars,” he said in a statement from Bangkok.

“Sadly, there’s more where that came from in the coming months, with many additional trials on other criminal charges to follow,” added Robertson.

Aung San Su Kyi had already been sentenced to six years in prison on five of 18 charges lodged against her since the junta overthrew and detained her. With Wednesday’s five-year sentence, she faces 11 years imprisonment from six charges, with 12 more charges pending.

“This case shows that we need to ask a lot of questions about the judiciary at a time when the military is dominating everything,” said Bo Bo Oo, a member of the Yangon regional assembly from the NLD.

Phyo Min Thein should not have turned against Aung San Suu Kyi "even under life-threatening situations, no matter how much you have been tortured," said Tun Kyi, a former political prisoner.

"His reputation, his past achievements, have all gone down the drain. That’s why he will go down in history with a black mark," he told RFA.

 According to the Association Assistance for Political Prisoners (AAPP), the military regime has handed out more than 1000 sentences among more than 10,300 civilians arrested or detained since the Feb. 1 coup that deposed Aung San Suu Kyi and her elected government. The junta has killed nearly, 1,800 civilians, the Bangkok-based group says.

Analysts said the prosecution of Aung San Suu Kyi will only add to the military junta's pariah status.

“No other country will see this as a fair trial,” said political analyst Sai Kyi Zin Soe. “They will see this as injustice, as a ploy to bar the NLD from playing a political role in the future.”

Reported by RFA's Myanmar Service. Written in English by Paul Eckert.