Opposition Leaders Are Charged In Myanmar

Myanmar’s deposed President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and Naypyitaw Council chairman Dr. Myo Aung earlier this week pleaded not guilty to charges of incitement brought by the military regime that removed Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) government in February.
The regime led by coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has filed 11 charges against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and two charges each against U Win Myint and Dr. Myo Aung. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was oppressed by successive military regimes for decades. Legal persecution is not new to U Win Myint and Dr. Myo Aung, either.
Anyhow, the detention of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in an unknown location and the attempt to imprison her on baseless charges indicate that Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing is more ruthless than his predecessor, Senior General Than Shwe.
The State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) and its successor, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), placed Daw Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest three times between 1989 and 2010. U Win Myint and Dr. Myo Aung were also political prisoners under previous regimes.
In July 1989, as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s popularity grew with the pro-democracy movement, she was placed under house arrest for the first time under Section 10 (b) of the 1975 State Protection Act. The provision carries a three-year prison sentence, and she was due to be released in July 1992. The regime changed the law in 1991 and increased the prison term to five years.
The amendment meant Daw Aung San Suu Kyi would remain under arrest for two more years. In July 1994, she was due to be released, but the regime refused by saying that she had been detained under a decree from July 1989 to July 1990, so that period would not be included in her five-year house arrest. As a result of the regime’s clever interpretation, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi spent six years under house arrest in total, and was released only in 1995.
In September 2000, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was forcibly stopped at Yangon General Railway Station as she was attempting to leave for Mandalay to campaign for her party. She was taken back to her home in Yangon’s Bahan Township where she spent one year and eight months in confinement until May 2002, without having committed any offense.
Just before her second house arrest, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her entourage, while traveling to Kunchangon and Kawhmu townships, were beaten and placed under house arrest for two weeks. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was snatched and taken home by six policewomen from Dala on the opposite bank of Yangon. Among those who were placed under 14 days of house arrest was Dr. Myo Aung, who later served as Naypyitaw Council chairman in the NLD government that was ousted this year.
The public support for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi did not wane, despite the regime’s hope that she would fade into obscurity after years of separation from the public. This led to the attempted assassination of the NLD leader while she was on a campaign trip in Tabayin in May 2003. She escaped the attack and was sent to Insein Prison, then again locked up at her house.
She began her third house arrest in May 2003. According to the law, the maximum sentence is five years in prison, however, the regime counted the prison term as starting in May 2004. In early May 2009, two weeks before her scheduled release from house arrest, US citizen John Yettaw trespassed on her lakeside residence.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (far left), U Win Myint (middle), and Dr. Myo Aung (right) appear in court in Naypyitaw in May.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was prosecuted under Section 22 of the State Protection Act for this illegal visit. They believed the regime used it as an excuse to confine her until the general election was over in 2010.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was detained in the officers’ quarters of the Correctional Department inside Insein Prison and put on trial for the first time. In August 2009, she was sentenced to three years in prison with labor.
Consequently, Home Affairs Minister Major General Maung Aung read Snr-Gen Than Shwe’s instruction before the judges, diplomats, and journalists that she would only have to serve half of the jail term no matter how many years she was handed by the court. The remainder of the sentence would be suspended and she would be freed from having to serve it if she behaved well. She was placed under house arrest. As scripted and directed by the regime, she was released from house arrest on Nov. 13, 2010, five days after the regime-held a general election.
She entered the parliament, which was dominated by the ex-generals, two years later. Her NLD won a majority in the general election in 2015 and formed the government for the first time, 25 years after winning the 1990 general election, only for the regime to refuse to hand overpower. It was the first civilian government in more than five decades since the 1962 coup by Gen. Ne Win.
In the 2020 poll, the NLD again secured an electoral mandate to manage the country for five more years. However, the Myanmar military, which has never enjoyed public support and has never been able to remove Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from Myanmar’s political leadership role, seized power in a coup in February this year. She was arrested for the fourth time at the age of 76 and is being held in an unknown location in Naypyitaw
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is facing 11 charges—including absurd accusations like illegal possession of walkie-talkies and misuse of land for a foundation named after her late mother—a larger number than was brought by former military dictators Senior General Saw Maung and Snr-Gen Than Shwe.

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