BANGKOK: A court in military-ruled Myanmar convicted the country’s former leader Aung San Suu Kyi of corruption and sentenced her to five years in prison in the first of several corruption cases against her.
Suu Kyi, who was ousted by an army takeover last year, had denied the allegation that she had accepted gold and hundreds of thousands of dollars given her as a bribe by a top political colleague.
Her supporters and independent legal experts consider her prosecution an unjust move to discredit Suu Kyi and legitimize the military’s seizure of power while keeping the 76-year-old elected leader from returning to an active role in politics.
The daughter of Aung San, Myanmar’s founding father, Suu Kyi became a public figure in 1988 during a failed uprising against a previous military government when she helped found the National League for Democracy party. She spent 15 of the next 21 years under house arrest for leading a nonviolent struggle for democracy that earned her the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize. When the army allowed an election in 2015, her party won a landslide victory and she became the de facto head of state. Her party won a greater majority in the 2020 polls.
She has already been sentenced to six years’ imprisonment in other cases and faces 10 more corruption charges. The maximum punishment under the Anti-Corruption Act is 15 years in prison and a fine. Convictions in the other cases could bring sentences of more than 100 years in prison in total.
“These charges will not have credibility other than in the eyes of the junta’s stacked courts (and the military’s supporters),” said Moe Thuzar, a fellow at the Yusof Ishak Institute, a Southeast Asian studies center in Singapore. “Even if there were any legitimate concerns or complaints about corruption by any member of an elected government, a coup and enforced military rule are certainly not the way to pursue such concerns.”