Aung San Suu Kyi had already served 26 years in prison. The Nobel Peace Prize winner has been on trial in Myanmar for months because she was tried on various charges. Suu Kyi was found guilty of five counts on Friday. This means that she has been sentenced to seven more years in prison for corruption, for a total of 33 years. Suu Kyi’s lawyers now plan to appeal. The 77-year-old has been under house arrest or in solitary confinement in prison for almost two years. At that time, a military coup destroyed the democratic turnaround in the war-torn Southeast Asian country. On February 1, 2021, the day of the coup, Suu Kyi was locked away, as were many of her political comrades-in-arms who had been elected by large majorities in democratic elections the year before, including then-President Win Myint, who like Suu Kyi belongs to the NLD party.
No public trial
Since then, Suu Kyi has been convicted of outrageous allegations, totaling 14 counts, including: illegal possession of a walke-talkie, violation of Covid measures, but also incitement to disorder or the disclosure of state secrets. It was all “absurd,” she said herself.
The most recent trials, which ended on Friday, were again about allegations of corruption. Human rights groups and Western observers have called the trials a farce. They are not public. The date of the verdict was only known from anonymous sources.
Breakthrough in the UN Security Council
The end of the trials comes at a particularly explosive time: just last week, the UN Security Council issued a historic resolution demanding the immediate release of all “arbitrarily detained prisoners” and citing Suu Kyi by name. In addition, the violence in the country should be stopped immediately. The most important UN body also called for conflict resolution to be based on the five-point consensus that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Asean for short, was able to reach in April 2021 – with the approval of Myanmar’s supreme ruler Min Aung Hlaing.
The mere fact that the resolution was passed by the most powerful UN body of all is groundbreaking: it is the first Security Council resolution on Myanmar ever since the UN accepted the new state as a member by resolution in 1948. Since then, the country has been almost constantly in a state of civil war, allegations of various crimes and atrocities have often been made. But the Security Council was never able to agree on a resolution. So far, such projects have failed due to the veto powers Russia and China, for example in 2007 or 2018, when a planned draft was not even put to the vote.
The current resolution, like the previous ones, goes back to a British initiative. Last week it was adopted with twelve votes in favor and three abstentions. Both China and Russia, permanent members of the council, abstained, as did India, which is currently represented on a rotating basis.
Asean as a key factor
Why the two veto powers did not prevent the resolution can be explained on the one hand by Asean’s important role in the process. Contrary to a previously planned statement, the resolution recognizes Asean as playing a key role in conflict resolution. In particular, the countries Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, which are important in the regional association, have been increasingly critical of the junta in recent months and lobbied for backing from the Security Council. China didn’t want to step on its regional partner’s toe, says Philipp Annawitt, Myanmar expert and former UN adviser, to the STANDARD. As a “reserved partner,” China has always had a pragmatic position on Myanmar.
The regional and international mood is moving in a direction to give the shadow government NUG a chance, comments Joanne Lin Weiling from ISEAS in Singapore to the STANDARD. “Moreover, the situation on the ground has only gotten worse so far. There is little progress if China and Russia continue to stonewall for the military government,” she adds. Even Russia and China have lost interest in “hanging their heads to defend the atrocities,” says Human Rights Watch’s Louis Charboneau.