Military Junta in Myanmar Gives Aung San Suu Kyi Surprise Partial Pardon

August 1, 2023

On Tuesday, Myanmar’s civilian leader in a military coup announced that former elected leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi had been given a partial pardon.

In December, a military-ruled court in Myanmar had added an additional seven years to Suu Kyi’s prison sentence, bringing her full sentence at the time to 33 years.

That court’s action came after a series of politically tinged prosecutions since the military toppled her elected government in February 2021. 

Altogether Suu Kyi has been convicted on charges related to corruption, violating Covid-19 restrictions, sedition and election fraud.

On Tuesday the military junta issued a pardon for offenses that included those Covid violations, as well as illegal importing walkie talkies. The pardon, according to junta spokesperson, will cut six years off the 78-year-old’s sentence—down to 27.

Political analysts say the junta may be hoping to appease foreign governments with the partial pardons, though Western governments aren’t likely to view the gesture as a genuine concession.

Meanwhile, Suu Kyi’s legal team reportedly hasn’t been able to meet with her since December or confirm reports that she was recently moved from a prison in Myanmar’s capital city of Naypyitaw to a house.

That’s despite an offer months ago from the United Nations to arrange a meeting between Suu Kyi and a special envoy, to which the military government had replied in a statement, “Depending on the circumstances after the completion of the judiciary process, we will consider how to proceed.”

Last year, Suu Kyi’s supporters as well as independent observers have said the charges against both her and her allies are an attempt by the military to legitimize its power seizure while eliminating her from politics ahead of next year’s promised elections. 

Since the coup, violence has erupted across Myanmar. Protesters against the military junta have mounted a civil disobedience movement and national strike, to which the military responded with brutal force, shooting and killing protesters in the streets. Thousands of armed resistance fighters have continued to battle, using guerrilla tactics and training in the jungle.

In December the United Nations’ Security Council adopted a resolution condemning the junta’s rights abuses and demanding the release of political prisoners. Suu Kyi is one of more than 16,000 people who have been arrested since the coup for opposing military rule, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. The group says all but a few thousand remain detained.

Suu Kyi is the daughter of Gen. Aung San, the country’s independence hero, who was assassinated when she was two years old. 

In 1991, Suu Kyi won a Nobel Peace Prize for her nonviolent resistance to the junta’s generals who had locked her up, turning her into an icon for global democracy. She eventually began a short-lived power-sharing arrangement with the military when her party, the National League for Democracy, won its first landslide election victory in 2015.

PHOTO: Aung San Suu Kyi in 2012

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