Myanmar: Nobel Peace Prize winner sentenced to 26 years in prison

Aung San Suu Kyi with inserted image of Myanmar military

Suu Kyi has been charged under the anti-corruption law with a total of 12 counts (Image: AFP)

Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced to three more years in prison, adding to the 23 years she has already been sentenced to.

Myanmar’s ousted leader, 77, has been found guilty of involvement in voter fraud.

She was arrested on February 1 last year when the military seized power from her elected government.

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.

They say the sentencing is also aimed at preventing them from voting in the next elections that the military has promised will be held in 2023.

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 punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine.

She has denied the allegations against her in the recent case, in which she was accused of receiving £497,000 as a bribe from a tycoon convicted of drug trafficking.

Demonstrators hold placards with pictures of Aung San Suu Kyi as they protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, on February 22, 2021

Demonstrators hold placards with pictures of Aung San Suu Kyi as they protest the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar on February 22, 2021 (Image: Reuters)

She had previously been convicted of illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, violating coronavirus restrictions, violating the country’s Official Secrets Act, sedition, voter fraud and five corruption charges.

She has not been seen or allowed to speak in public since her arrest.

Her lawyers are also not allowed to speak publicly on her behalf or about her trial since they were gagged last year.

In the case decided yesterday, Suu Kyi was accused of receiving money from construction magnate Maung Weik in 2019 and 2020, with separate payments being treated as two offences.

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, and shortly thereafter, in March 2021, military-controlled state television aired a video in which he claimed to have made cash payments to government ministers to help his companies.

In a separate trial, Suu Kyi is still on trial alongside the country’s former President Win Myint on five other corruption charges related to permits granted to a cabinet minister to hire and purchase a helicopter.

Suu Kyi has been the face of opposition to military rule in Myanmar for more than three decades. The previous military government placed them under house arrest 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 significant power and influence under the terms of a constitution it enacted in 2008.

The National League for Democracy won yet another landslide victory in the 2020 election, but its MPs were prevented from taking their seats in Parliament by the army, also arresting 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.

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Justin Scacco

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