Myanmar’s kangaroo court targets both Suu Kyi and democracy itself

The intention to end the political life of Aung San Suu Kyi, who has led Myanmar’s democratic government, is obvious. There is no legitimacy in a trial where the military calls all the shots.

Suu Kyi, detained since a military coup in February this year, was sentenced to four years in prison. Her sentence was halved after a partial pardon from the military, but she has been further charged with more than 10 additional crimes, including corruption and election fraud.

If found guilty in all the cases she faces, she could be sentenced to more than 100 years in prison. It can be said that Suu Kyi’s return to politics is hopeless.

Suu Kyi is being tried by a special court set up by the military. Under a state of emergency declared after the military coup, the supreme commander of the military has seized full control of judicial, legislative and administrative powers. It is impossible to expect a fair and transparent trial.

Suu Kyi’s hearings have been closed to the public, and her lawyers have been barred from speaking to the media or to foreign diplomats about what happened in the hearings. This can only be called political persecution in the guise of trials.

Are the two charges for which she has been found guilty this time reasonable?

In one case, Suu Kyi’s political party was accused of inciting social unrest after it issued a statement condemning the military coup.

In another case, Suu Kyi was deemed to have violated the law to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus infections as she waved without wearing a mask during her campaign for the general election in November last year.

It must be said that both of these are arbitrary and political interpretations. The severity of the sentence also is excessive.

In addition to Suu Kyi, senior members who led the democratic government and citizens who participated in demonstrations against the military have been convicted one after another. At this rate, the collapse of the pro-democracy camp appears inevitable.

The military has claimed that last year’s general election, won by the pro-democracy camp, was rigged. It plans to hold another election by August 2023. This is a scheme by the military to ensure that a political party under its control will win the election and launch a purportedly legitimate government led by the military, while opposition forces are made to disappear.

The international community must not let the current situation go unaddressed. The U.N. Security Council should adopt sanctions resolutions to ban arms exports to Myanmar, among other measures. China and Russia have a responsibility to change their opposition to the measures to enhance pressure on Myanmar and urge the military to make efforts to improve the situation.

Japan has not joined the statements of the United States and European countries that have criticized the military, and its passive attitude has been conspicuous. The Japanese government has said Japan has lines of communication with the military, but its own diplomacy has not produced tangible results. The administration of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, which advocates respect for human rights, should fundamentally review its response to the military in Myanmar.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Dec. 10, 2021.