08/18/2020 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) – The military junta in Myanmar moved to further sentence former democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday, just hours before UN special envoy for Myanmar, Noeleen Heyzer, landed for her first visit to the country. The sentencing adds six years to her already eleven-year prison sentence. It is the latest in a series of trumped-up charges the junta has unleashed against Suu Kyi since taking over the government in February 2021.
The international community swiftly condemned the takeover but has little to show for the condemnation eighteen months later. The timing of this latest sentencing shows the junta’s disregard for the rest of the world’s opinion.
Several rounds of sanctions, coordinated by governments worldwide since the coup, may have made some difference. Still, the military has been heavily sanctioned for years for human rights abuses stretching back decades. It has even mocked the new layers of sanctions, calling them ineffective and suggesting that the new sanctions were more symbolic than effective. In this, the Tatmadaw may be correct, given the continued economic and military support it continues to receive from Russia and China.
The Burmese military, or Tatmadaw, has waged a campaign of brutal violence against the civilian population of the country and refuses to allow unimpeded access for humanitarian workers attempting to ease the suffering. The UN has been loud in its demands for humanitarian access.
The military’s thin attempts to justify the takeover by claiming it was a response to fraud in the 2020 elections did little to assuage the international community, which had helped to oversee the elections and found little evidence to justify the military’s claims. The Tatmadaw has a long history of violence against the people of Myanmar, including against Christian and Muslim religious minorities. Last year, ICC published a report detailing several of these minority groups and proposing actions that the international community can take to push back against the Tatmadaw.
The Tatmadaw recently executed four political activists who opposed the junta’s attack on democracy. It promises to hold free and open elections at some point, but even if it keeps this promise—not a given, considering its disregard for the last free and open elections —there is no doubt that the coup represents a substantial blow to Myanmar’s prospects of a sable, self-sustaining democracy.
Suu Kyi is a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a symbol of Myanmar’s nascent democracy. She has helped to raise Myanmar’s profile on the international stage and was, for years, the country’s principal representative to the rest of the world. She even defended the military against accusations of serious human rights violations before the UN International Court of Justice in 2019. This move raised eyebrows and suggested that the military exercised an outsized influence over her.
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