Cuffed and collared: On imprisonment to Suu Kyi

The sentencing of Myanmar leaders to four years in prison on two separate charges on Monday, by a court run by the military junta, appears to be just the first of a number of sentences aimed at putting State Councillor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other government leaders in custody for decades. The verdicts that relate to cases dealing with “incitement against the military” and for “breaching Covid laws” are frighteningly farcical. One relates to speeches made during protests against the military’s decision to dismiss the results of last November’s elections, which Ms. Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), clearly won. The other, even more ridiculous, is for breaching COVID-19 protocols at an election rally when she was photographed wearing both a face mask and a shield throughout her campaign. The sentences, and the ones that will follow, are meant not only to ensure an end to the NLD and Ms. Suu Kyi’s public life but are also part of an effort to break the spirit of democratic groups. Over the past eight months since the military coup in February, more than 1,300 civilians protesting the military’s actions have been killed, and thousands including the entire NLD government arrested, with detentions, trials and sentences carried out in secret. In more evidence of the military’s brutality, three people were reportedly mowed down by a military vehicle on Sunday, when they took part in a peaceful protest.

The military’s messaging is not aimed only domestically, however. Its actions are meant to challenge the international community as well, which has failed to take any action against Myanmar’s leadership in the past few years: first on its ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya that drove a million out to refugee camps in Bangladesh (which the NLD government was complicit in), and then its actions against the democratically elected government itself. Since February, the UN Security Council has done little other than issuing statements appealing for an end to the violence and the restoration of democracy, and to suspend the nation’s UN seat. While China, which has deep links with the military and a considerable investment in the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, has sought to protect the junta from sanctions, the U.S. has proven ineffective in ensuring a different outcome as well. It is ironic that Ms. Suu Kyi’s sentencing comes in a week when the U.S. hosts a “Summit for Democracy”. The Modi government too, given its worries about losing a foothold in the neighbourhood, and its need for cooperation with the Myanmar military over the restive North-eastern border, has chosen silence over any serious attempt to change the course of events in Myanmar. Much like its inability to influence outcomes in Afghanistan, India’s ineffectual posture over the developments in Myanmar could also cause it considerable reputational damage as a regional leader.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2022 4:57:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/cuffed-and-collared-on-imprisonment-to-suu-kyi/article37874535.ece

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