The sentence is reduced, but the military’s objective remains unchanged. Hours after the verdict sentencing Aung San Suu Kyi to four years in prison, junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing publicly announced a partial amnesty, reducing the sentence to two years. The former Burmese leader, 76, detained in an unknown location since the coup d’état of 1is February, was accused of inciting public unrest and violating health rules related to Covid-19.
This obviously calculated gesture also concerns former President Win Myint, who had been sentenced to the same sentence. “It was an attempt to be magnanimous, it fell flat”, notes Richard Horsey, analyst for the International Crisis Group, quoted by Agence France-Presse. The reduction of sentence does not change anything in substance, since Aung San Suu Kyi remains prevented from campaigning for the next elections, announced by the junta from August 2023. In addition, the former Burmese leader faces other charges, for acts which could earn him up to a hundred years in prison in total. The next verdict is expected on December 14.
“China has the cards in hand”
Paradoxically, the verdict of the court in Naypyidaw, the Burmese capital, helped to partially restore the aura of the Nobel Peace Prize winner, widely tarnished abroad for her lack of compassion towards Rohingya Muslims, victims of atrocities from the Burmese army. The head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, denounced a conviction “Unfair”, believing that his sentence was “An affront to democracy and justice in Burma”. Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, for her part criticized “A rigged trial with a secret procedure before a court controlled by the military” and a verdict that “Close a door to political dialogue”. “Aung San Suu Kyi has dedicated her life to fighting for freedom and democracy in Burma and has held this difficult role for over thirty years”, added the Norwegian Nobel Committee, ” worry ” for the one who was its winner in 1991.
International pressure is nevertheless unlikely to change the situation, notes David Camroux, honorary researcher at the Center for International Studies at Sciences-Po. “China has most of the cards in hand, he notes. And the Western countries have not taken the plunge anyway by recognizing the government in exile. [le gouvernement d’unité nationale de Birmanie, formé le 16 avril 2021 par des personnalités ayant fui le pays]. On the other hand, this verdict is a new clumsiness of the junta. Aung San Suu Kyi is, for them, much more dangerous in detention than in freedom. The young people who demonstrate in his favor want to go well beyond the reestablishment of the 2008 Constitution, they call squarely on the army to return to its barracks… ”
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Burma: Aung San Suu Kyi’s sentence reduced from four to two years