Four months after a military government ousted the elected government of Burma, the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi has begun.
An iconic leader known around the world, Ms. Suu Kyi, 75, faces decades in prison if convicted – to many Burmese a foregone conclusion – in a nation stricken with corruption and brutal crackdowns on anyone opposing the military junta of Min Aung Hlaing.
Ms. Suu Kyi has initially been charged with the minor ‘crime‘ of having in her possession a number of unlicensed walkie-talkies. Violations of COVID related restrictions were also added to the charge sheet.
It is understood the widow of a Cuban born English scholar, Michael Aris, under house-arrest since the February 1st coup has only met with her lawyers twice since being detained, but in a trial set to start today could be convicted of sedition – a charge that carries a maximum penalty of 14 years if proven.
She will later face allegations of corruption after reportedly accepting US$600,000 and an estimated 11kg of gold.
Speaking to the AFP in recent days, Ms. Suu Kyi’s lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said “There is an undeniable political background to keep her out of the scene of the country and to smear her prestige,” adding “That’s one of the reasons to charge her – to keep her out of the scene.”
If convicted of corruption under Burmese law, she faces a further 15 years in prison.
In a globally covered coup, Burma’s military seized power claiming voter fraud in elections that had been deemed free and fair by independent election overseers, and in the months since have cracked down on all dissent.
To date an estimated 800 pro-democracy activists have been killed with around 5,000 detained.
Ms. Suu Kyi had in recent years come in for a great deal of international criticism for her treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority in a series of ongoing persecutions by Burma’s military it is believed she did little to stop.
As early as 2014, Myanmar’s then military government instructed the nation’s media to refrain from coverage of Rohingya related issues – a move Ms. Suu Kyi made no effort to change when in power.