Latest Myanmar updates
- Myanmar’s former de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to two years in prison on Monday on charges of incitement and violating COVID-19 restrictions. Ten months after the military overthrew and imprisoned her, the regime’s decision to prosecute rather than returning her to house arrest sends a signal that “they’re not willing to consider any compromise whatsoever,” said Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK.
- Western leaders denounced Monday’s verdict, with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calling it a “politically motivated” conclusion to “a sham trial in secretive proceedings before a military-controlled court.” Neighbouring China’s Foreign Ministry gave a less critical response, saying “we sincerely hope that all parties in Myanmar will proceed from the long-term interests of the country.”
The situation in Myanmar so far
Feb. 1′s coup in Myanmar
Myanmar’s military, which ruled the Southeast Asian country absolutely from the 1960s to the 2010s, has been in charge once again since a coup on Feb. 1 against the quasi-civilian government. Soldiers arrested Aung San Suu Kyi, the State Counsellor (a role analogous to prime minister) and others in her party, the National League for Democracy. Feb. 1 would have been the first day of a new parliament after elections that gave Ms. Suu Kyi’s party 396 of 476 seats. While the state Union Election Commission affirmed those results, the military claimed, without evidence, that there was fraud that could have allowed voters to cast multiple ballots.
What Myanmar’s constitution says
The military claimed it has the right to seize power under Article 417 of a 2008 constitution that the military drafted itself, before the transition to quasi-civilian rule. That article allows the president to put the military’s commander-in-chief in charge in a state of emergency. The elected president, a Suu Kyi loyalist, was one of those arrested in February, replaced by a former military official who enacted the state of emergency. The junta has said it will eventually hold free multiparty elections but possibly not until 2023.
What Myanmar’s opposition says
The military’s crackdown on dissent has touched all levels of Myanmar’s diverse society, not just long-persecuted ethnic minorities like the Rohingya, but the Bayar majority as well. That’s helped to bring together a broad coalition opposed to the junta, despite the military’s repeated use of force to suppress protests.
What was Aung San Suu Kyi charged with?
Details of Ms. Suu Kyi’s trial have been scant because proceedings were closed to the media and her lawyers were barred from speaking with the public. Dec. 6′s conviction involved charges of incitement (related to posts on her party’s Facebook page after the coup and her arrest) and violating COVID-19 restrictions at an election rally in November of 2020. Initially she was given a four-year sentence but Myanmar’s military leader reduced it to two. Additional charges accuse her of corruption and breaking a colonial-era official secrets law, the latter of which can carry a 14-year sentence. Ms. Suu Kyi denies the charges and human-rights observers have denounced the trial as unfair.
Who’s who in Myanmar politics
Aung San Suu Kyi
The now detained 76-year-old leader of Myanmar. In the 1980s, she became an outspoken critic of Myanmar’s military rulers and spent years as a political prisoner, winning a Nobel Peace Price in 1991 while she was still in captivity. She was released in 2010 as the military transitioned to a quasi-civilian government, and became State Counsellor (a role created especially for her) in 2016 after the NLD swept national elections.
Her international standing was damaged after she played down the military’s role in massacres of the Rohingya ethnic group in the northwestern state of Rakhine, but she remains popular at home.
Min Aung Hlaing
The 65-year-old who now governs Myanmar. He commanded the country’s armed forces since 2011, a role that earned him condemnation from the U.S. government and international human rights groups over his troops’ actions in Rakhine. After the coup he was effectively Ms. Suu Kyi’s replacement, and in August he declared himself prime minister.
A 70-year-old former military official who is now Myanmar’s acting president. He is a close ally of Than Shwe, former leader of the military junta that stepped aside for civilian rule in 2011. Myint Swe was chief minister of Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, and for years headed its regional military command.
U Win Myint
The 70-year-old civilian president of Myanmar arrested in the coup. On paper, U Win Myint was the de jure leader of Myanmar but deferred to Ms. Suu Kyi (who was deemed ineligible for the presidency under the 2008 constitution) as the de facto leader of the country. He was sentenced to a prison term by the same court that convicted Ms. Suu Kyi on Dec. 6.
The Burmese name for Myanmar’s armed forces. Under the 2008 constitution, it gets an unelected quota of 25 per cent of parliamentary seats and it controls the defence, interior and border ministries. It also exercised considerable power in Myanmar’s elected legislature through the civilian party it supports, Union Solidarity and Development Party, which governed until 2015 when the NLD unseated it.
West: The American, British, Australian and European Union governments have condemned Myanmar’s coup, calling variously for the release of civilian leaders and efforts to avoid violence. In Washington, the Biden administration reimposed sanctions on Myanmar’s top generals, but the U.S. and Canadian governments haven’t so far introduced any new sanctions since May.
Asia: China’s Foreign Ministry has had a more muted reaction, saying initially that “we hope that all sides in Myanmar can appropriately handle their differences under the constitution and legal framework and safeguard political and social stability.” The ministry used similar language when responding to Ms. Suu Kyi’s conviction. Meanwhile, member states of ASEAN brokered a consensus with the Myanmarese junta in April that called for an end to violence and “constructive dialogue” between the feuding parties in Myanmar.
Compiled by Globe staff
With reports from James Griffiths, Reuters and The Associated Press
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