Myanmar's junta-controlled Supreme Court to hear appeal by Aung San Suu Kyi

But those familiar with the cases against her are not optimistic that the verdicts will be reversed.
By RFA Burmese
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Myanmar's junta-controlled Supreme Court to hear appeal by Aung San Suu Kyi Detained former State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi (L) and former President Win Myint (C) appear in a military-controlled court in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw, May 24, 2021.
Myanmar's Ministry of Information via AFP

Myanmar’s Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear an appeal by former State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi against her convictions on corruption charges and the violation of election and state secrets laws brought by the ruling junta, people close to the court said.

The court has repeatedly rejected most of Suu Kyi’s appeals, though now it will hear her appeal against charges related to five cases dealing with the purchase and lease of a helicopter under the former civilian-led National League for Democracy (NLD) government and the commission of election fraud under the country’s Penal Code and colonial-era Official Secrets Act

Junta courts found Suu Kyi, 78, guilty of all charges against her in December 2022, prompting her legal team to submit appeals to rulings against her. Suu Kyi’s political supporters say the charges were politically motivated.

The move comes as the junta is planning to hold an election, despite ongoing nationwide conflict between the military and anti-regime forces and ethnic armed groups. In March, the junta dissolved the NLD and dozens of other political parties for failing to meet a political party registration deadline imposed under a new Political Party Registration law.

Suu Kyi, who faces a total of 33 years in jail for 19 cases, is being held in solitary confinement at a prison in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw.

The NLD leader’s attorneys are allowed to send her parcels via prison authorities once a week, but they are not allowed to meet with her in person.

Junta is 'buying time'

Political observers and lawyers familiar with the cases against Suu Kyi believe the Supreme Court hearing will amount to naught.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeals because the junta wants to convince the international community that its judicial system is fair, said veteran politician Than Soe Naing. 

“I think the junta is buying time,” he told Radio Free Asia. “The international community has condemned the court rulings against Daw [honorific] Aung San Suu Kyi for operating an unfair judicial system and lack of evidence. Under this situation, they have agreed to hear Aung San Suu Kyi’s appeals because they want to portray that their judicial system is fair.” 

Nevertheless, the Union Supreme Court will not reject lower court rulings against Suu Kyi, said an attorney and NLD member who declined to be named for security reasons.  

“The only possibility is that they may reduce the sentence, but we cannot expect she will be acquitted,” he said. “They may move her to house arrest.” 

One of Suu Kyi’s attorneys, who also declined to be named for the same reason, said members of her legal team doubted that they would prevail at the Supreme Court hearing.

“We are thinking of ‘rule of law’ in our minds and doing it,” the lawyer said. “We never think there will be a good result at the end. We do not think we will win the appeals. One day, we need to make a record of whether there is rule of law or not. We are doing that.”

From prison to house arrest?

The United States, the European Union and other members of the international community, including U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, have called for the release of arbitrarily detained prisoners, including Suu Kyi and deposed President Win Myint.

During a meeting on Aug. 17, 2022, Noeleen Heyzer, the U.N.’s special envoy on Myanmar asked junta chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing to move Suu Kyi to house arrest from prison.

Min Aung Hlaing said he would consider the action only after the issuance of verdicts in the court cases against Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi served as Myanmar’s de facto leader following national elections in 2015, which the NLD won by a landslide. The party also won the 2020 national elections, but the military staged a coup on Feb. 1, 2021, and seized power from the democratically elected government. 

The army arrested civilian leaders of the national and state governments, including Suu Kyi, Win Myint, and several dozen other senior officials who were in Naypyidaw for the convening of the newly elected lower house of parliament.  

Translated by Htin Aung Kyaw for RFA Burmese. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Matt Reed.


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