Myanmar’s Suu Kyi gets jail with hard labour for election fraud

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi delivers an opening address at the Myanmar-Japan-US Forum on Fostering Responsible Investment in Yangon on August 20. Photo: EPA. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

YANGON, Sep 2, 2022, Reuters. Myanmar’s deposed former leader Aung San Suu Kyi was found guilty of electoral fraud on Friday and sentenced to three years in jail with hard labour, according to a source familiar with the proceedings, Reuters reported.

The Nobel laureate and figurehead of Myanmar’s opposition to decades of military rule has been detained since a coup early last year and has already been sentenced to more than 17 years in prison. She denies all the allegations against her.

On Friday, she was judged to have committed fraud in a November 2020 general election that her National League for Democracy (NLD) won with an overwhelming legislative majority, trouncing a party created by the powerful military.

The source, who declined to be identified because they were not authorised to speak to media, said it was the first time hard labour had been applied to Suu Kyi’s sentencing and was unclear what it would entail.

Co-defendant Win Myint, the deposed president, was given the same sentence, the source said.

A spokesperson for the ruling military council did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The junta has said Suu Kyi,77, is being given due process.

Former inmates have told Reuters of the harsh conditions in some Myanmar jails and in recent years there have been media reports of shackling and hard labour in quarries taking place at some facilities.

Still, an official at the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an activist group that tracks detentions, said he did not expect high-profile political prisoners like Suu Kyi to be subjected to hard labour, not least because it would mean fraternising with other inmates.

He also said laws covering Myanmar prisons stated that the elderly or people in poor health should be spared such work.

The military seized power in February 2021 to stop Suu Kyi’s NLD from forming a new government after the election that it said had instances of fraud that had not properly been investigated.

The NLD has denied fraud and said it won fairly.

Suu Kyi has been on trial for more than a year on multiple charges, ranging from corruption and incitement to leaks of official secrets, for which the combined maximum sentences are more than 190 years.

Her trials have been held behind closed doors in the capital, Naypyitaw, and the junta’s statements on the proceedings have been limited. A gag order has been imposed on Suu Kyi’s lawyers.

In June, Myanmar military authorities transferred Suu Kyi to solitary confinement in a prison in the capital Naypyitaw from an undisclosed location.

In response to a request made by a visiting United Nations official calling for Suu Kyi to be allowed to return home, junta chief Min Aung Hlaing said last month he would consider moving her to house arrest but only after all the verdicts in her cases had been reached.

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