Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to a further three years on election fraud charge

Myanmar’s former leader now faces 20 years in prison with other cases still to be heard.
By RFA Burmese
2022.09.02
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Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to a further three years on election fraud charge Aung San Suu Kyi visits Kawhmu township, Yangon, on July 18, 2019.
Reuters

UPDATED at 2:17 P.M. EDT on 2022-09-02

Naypyidaw Prison Court has sentenced Myanmar’s former State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi to a further three years in prison on a charge of election fraud, sources close to the court told RFA.

Friday’s ruling comes on top of 17 years of sentences for 10 previous cases.

“The previous cases were ordered without hard labor. This sentence was imprisonment with hard labor in addition to the maximum punishment. I have learned that the lawyers will continue to appeal,” a source close to the court said.

The case was brought on the grounds that Suu Kyi used undue influence on the Union Election Commission (UEC) under Section 130 (a) of the Penal Code. The same charge was brought against former President Win Myint and former Union Cabinet Office Minister Min Thu, who also received three-year sentences.

Kyaw Htwe, a member of the National League for Democracy (NLD) Central Working Committee, said that Suu Kyi and the NLD-led government leaders did not use any undue influence regarding the election, and the UEC, which was in charge of the 2020 election, acted in accordance with legal procedures.

Suu Kyi testified at her trial on July 15 that she did not use improper influence on the Election Commission regarding the 2020 election and acted in accordance with the law.

The 2020 election was free and fair even though it had a few weaknesses, according to domestic and international election monitoring groups.

However, the military seized power on February 1, 2021 with the pretext that the election was rigged.

A total of 505 people, including Suu Kyi, Win Myint, NLD-led government members and those in charge of the 2020 Election Commission, have been charged with election fraud, the military council’s new election commission said at a press conference in Naypyidaw on August 17.

Mandalay Region Chief Minister Zaw Myint Maung was sentenced to three years in prison under Section 130 (a) of the Penal Code. 

Kayin State Chief Minister Nan Khin Htwe Myint was sentenced to three years in prison and Mon State Chief Minister Aye Zan was sentenced to two years in prison by the military council’s courts.

Hla Thein, chairman of the Election Commission, along with Than Htay and Myint Naing, who were members of the UEC during the NLD-led Government, were all sentenced to three years in prison under Section 130 (a) of the Penal Code.

Aung San Suu Kyi was charged with 19 cases after the military coup and is currently serving 20 years in prison for 11 cases.

On June 22, Suu Kyi, 77, was transferred to solitary confinement in Naypyidaw Prison. She still faces trials for another eight cases in the prison court.

Vicky Bownman (L), former UK ambassador to Myanmar, and her husband, Htein Lin, in undated photos. Credit: RFA

'Trumped-up charges'

On Friday, Myanmar political analyst Sai Kyi Zin Soe told RFA that by accusing Aung San Suu Kyi and her political party of various criminal offense, it is attempting to stop the growing influence of the former leader and the NLD.

“This seems to be a response to the NLD party which had been trying to reduce and erase the role of the military [in Burmese politics],” he said.

“The junta might think that by sentencing Daw [honorific] Aung San Suu Kyi, her public image will be damaged, and her public support will be lost over time, Sai Kyi Soe said.

But the political analysts also suggested that as has occurred in the past, the junta may be setting up a situation so that Aung san Suu Kyi would be pardoned in the future, and the military regime would take credit for it.

Chandanie Watawala, executive director of the Asian Network for Free Elections, said her organization, known as ANFREL, strongly condemned the junta’s latest conviction of Aung San Suu Kyi on election fraud charges.

“They don't have any right to do that,” she said. “They continuously try to repress democracy through the political parties, the leaderships, civil society, and normal civilians.

Also on Friday, former U.K. Ambassador to Myanmar Vicky Bowman and her Burmese husband, Htein Lin, were sentenced to one year in prison each on immigration violation charges, which activists said were concocted by the junta.

Authorities arrested Bowman, who served as ambassador from 2002-2006, and her husband, an artist and former political prisoner, on Aug. 25 for allegedly violating immigration laws and jailed them in Yangon's notorious Insein Prison.

The arrests came after the U.K. announced a new round of sanctions against Myanmar's brutal military junta.

Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for campaigns, said the sentencing of the pair was “extremely concerning.”

“Myanmar’s military has a notorious track record of arresting and jailing people on politically motivated or trumped-up charges,” she said in a statement.

“More than 15,000 people have been arrested since the military seized power in a coup last year, and many are languishing in a vast network of detention and interrogation facilities where they have faced torture or other ill-treatment.”

The story was updated to include comments by Sai Kyi Zin Soe, Chandanie Watawala and Ming Yu Hah, and the sentencing of Vicky Bowman and her husband.

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