Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi sentence halved to two years by junta chief

Ousted civilian leader found guilty of inciting dissent against the military and breaching Covid rules

Myanmar's junta chief reduced the prison sentence of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to two years on Monday, after she was sentenced to four years for incitement against the military and breaching Covid rules.

Initially, Suu Kyi “was sentenced to two years' imprisonment under section 505(b) and two years' imprisonment under natural disaster law”, junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun said. But Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing later “pardoned” the sentences she and former president Win Myint were given to “two years imprisonment”, according to a statement read out on state TV.

They would serve their sentences under the house arrest they have been kept under in the capital of Naypyidaw, the statement said, without giving further details.

On Monday evening residents in parts of commercial capital Yangon banged pots and pans — a practice traditionally associated with driving out evil spirits, but which has been used since February to show dissent against the military.

“They will face other charges from the places where they are staying now” in the capital Naypyidaw, the junta spokesman said earlier on Monday, without giving further details.

Suu Kyi, 75, has been detained since generals removed her government in the early hours of February 1, ending Myanmar's brief democratic interlude. The military said it seized power because of widespread election fraud, a claim that independent election observers say lacks evidence.

Aung San Suu Kyi — life in pictures

The junta has since added a number of other indictments, including breaching the official secrets act, corruption and electoral fraud.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the conviction and called for the Nobel laureate's release.

“The Burmese military regime’s unjust conviction of Aung San Suu Kyi and the repression of other democratically elected officials are yet further affronts to democracy and justice in Burma,” Mr Blinken said in a statement.

“The regime’s continued disregard for the rule of law and its widespread use of violence against the Burmese people underscore the urgency of restoring Burma’s path to democracy.”

The sentencing was the first in a series of cases that Suu Kyi is being prosecuted for since the army seized power, preventing her National League for Democracy party from starting a second five-year term in office. The verdict in another case against her is expected next week.

If found guilty in all the cases, she could face a sentence of more than 100 years. In her long struggle for democracy, she has suffered 15 years of house arrest, starting in 1989.

The incitement case involved statements posted on her party’s Facebook page after she and other party leaders had already been detained by the military, while the coronavirus charge involved a campaign appearance before elections in November last year which her party won overwhelmingly.

Journalists have been barred from proceedings in the special court in the capital, and Suu Kyi's lawyers were recently banned from speaking to the media.

There were protest marches on Sunday against the military government and calls for the release of Suu Kyi and other detained members of her government. An Army lorry deliberately sped into a march of about 30 young people in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, and at least three of the protesters may have been killed, according to unconfirmed reports.

In total, more than 1,300 people have been killed and more than 10,000 arrested in a crackdown on dissent since the coup, a local monitoring group said.

Updated: December 6th 2021, 5:33 PM