Assault convictions extend Suu Kyi’s sentence to 26 years in prison

BANGKOK – A court in military-ruled Myanmar on Wednesday sentenced the country’s ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, to two more corruption charges with two three-year sentences to be served concurrently, adding to previous convictions that now give her a 26-year sentence carry a total sentence, said a judicial officer.

Suu Kyi, 77, was arrested on February 1, 2021, when the military seized power from her elected government. She has denied the allegations against her in the case, in which she was accused of receiving a $550,000 bribe from Maung Weik, a tycoon convicted of drug trafficking.

Corruption cases make up the bulk of the many charges the military has brought against the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner. Suu Kyi was charged under the Anti-Corruption Act with a total of 12 counts, each count carrying up to 15 years in prison and a fine.

Suu Kyi had previously been sentenced to 23 years in prison after being found guilty of illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, violating coronavirus restrictions, violating the country’s official secrets law, sedition, voter fraud and five corruption charges had been.

Her supporters and independent analysts say the charges are politically motivated and an attempt to discredit her and legitimize the military’s seizure of power, while barring her from voting in the next elections that the military has promised will be held in 2023.

In recent months, their trials have taken place in a purpose-built courtroom in the main prison on the outskirts of the capital, Naypyitaw. She has not been seen or allowed to speak in public since her arrest, and her lawyers, who had been a source of information about the trial, were not allowed to speak publicly on her behalf or about her trial after a gag order was issued on her last year.

In the case decided on Wednesday, Suu Kyi was accused of receiving a total of $550,000 from Maung Weik in 2019 and 2020, with separate payments being treated as two felonies.

Maung Weik, a construction tycoon, had close ties to the army generals in power during a previous military-led government and ran two main companies during his three decades in business: Maung Weik & Family Co. Ltd., specializing in the trading of metals and agricultural products, and Sae Paing Development Ltd., a real estate and construction company.

He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2008 for drug trafficking but was released in 2014 under a semi-democratic interim government led by former General Thein Sein.

After his release from prison, Maung Weik returned to doing business with former generals and became chairman of Mandalay Business Capital City Development, which was involved in the city development work, according to a 2017 report in The Irrawaddy, an online news magazine.

Under Suu Kyi’s government, Maung Weik won a major development project involving the construction of houses, restaurants, hospitals, economic zones, a port and hotel zones in Myanmar’s central Mandalay region.

He was reportedly interrogated two weeks after the army takeover last year, and shortly thereafter, in March 2021, military-controlled state television aired a video in which he claimed he had made cash payments to government ministers to buy his companies help.

He said in his video that the money included $100,000 given to Suu Kyi in 2018 for a charitable foundation named after her mother and an additional $450,000 in payments in 2019 and 2020 for causes , which he did not specify.

A state-controlled newspaper, Global New Light of Myanmar, reported in February that Suu Kyi, in her position as state adviser — the country’s de facto chief executive — received $550,000 in four installments in 2019-2020 “to Business activities of a private entrepreneur.”

Suu Kyi’s close colleague Zaw Myint Maung, who served as prime minister in the Mandalay region, was separately accused of receiving more than $180,000 from Maung Weik and convicted of corruption in June.

Wednesday’s verdict, which sentenced Suu Kyi to two concurrent three-year terms, was delivered by a court official who insisted on anonymity for fear of punishment by the authorities.

He added that her lawyers are expected to appeal in the coming days.

In a separate trial, Suu Kyi is on trial alongside the country’s former president, Win Myint, on five other corruption charges in connection with issuing permits to a cabinet minister to lease and purchase a helicopter.

Suu Kyi has been the face of opposition to military rule in Myanmar for more than three decades. She was placed under house arrest by the previous military government in 1989, which lasted 15 of the next 22 years.

Her party, the National League for Democracy, first came to power after winning the 2015 general election, establishing a genuine civilian government for the first time since a 1962 military coup. However, democratic reforms have been slow in coming, largely because the military retained considerable power and influence under the terms of a 2008 constitution.

The National League for Democracy party won yet another landslide victory in the 2020 election, but its lawmakers were prevented from taking their seats in Parliament by the army, which also arrested the party’s top leaders.

The army said it acted because of massive voter fraud in the 2020 election, but independent poll observers found no major irregularities.

The 2021 takeover of power was accompanied by peaceful protests across the country, which used deadly force to crush security forces and sparked fierce armed resistance in what some UN experts are now characterizing as a civil war.

At least 2,343 civilians were killed and 15,821 arrested by security forces, according to a detailed list compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a surveillance group now based in Thailand.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Assault convictions extend Suu Kyi’s sentence to 26 years in prison

Sarah Y. Kim

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