Bangkok: A junta court in Myanmar on Monday sentenced the ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi to four more years in prison after finding her guilty of illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies and violating coronavirus restrictions, a legal official said.
In slew of cases against her, Suu Kyi was convicted last month on two other charges and awarded a four-year prison sentence, which was then halved by the head of the military-installed government. The cases are among about a dozen brought against the 76-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate since the army seized power last February, ousting her elected government in an early morning coup, ending Myanmar’s short-lived experiment with democracy.
Suu Kyi’s supporters say the charges against her are contrived to legitimize the military’s actions and prevent her from returning to politics.
The generals’ power grab triggered widespread dissent, which security forces sought to quell with mass detentions and bloody crackdowns in which more than 1,400 civilians have been killed, according to a local monitoring group.
Junta spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun confirmed the verdicts and sentences and told media Suu Kyi would remain under house arrest while other cases against her proceed.
The walkie-talkie charges stem from when soldiers raided her house on the day of the coup, allegedly discovering the contraband equipment.
Monday’s sentence adds to the penalties the court handed down in December when she was jailed for four years for incitement and breaching Covid-19 rules while campaigning.
Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing cut the sentence to two years and said she could serve her term under house arrest in the capital Naypyidaw.
December’s ruling drew international condemnation, and the Myanmar public reverted to old protesting tactics of banging pots and pans in a show of anger.
Ahead of the verdict, Manny Maung, a Human Rights Watch researcher, said further convictions would deepen nationwide discontent.
“The announcement of her last conviction resulted in one of the highest days of social media interactions from inside Myanmar, and deeply angered the public,” she told media.
“The military is calculating this (the cases) as a fear tactic but it only serves to direct more anger from the public.”
Journalists have been barred from attending hearings, and Suu Kyi’s lawyers have been muzzled from speaking to the media.
Under a previous junta regime, Suu Kyi spent long spells under house arrest in her family mansion in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city.
Today, she is confined to an undisclosed location in the capital, with her link to the outside world limited to brief pre-trial meetings with her lawyers.
Besides Monday’s cases, she is also facing multiple counts of corruption — each of which is punishable by 15 years in jail — and of violating the official secrets act.
In November, she and 15 other officials, including Myanmar’s president Win Myint, were also charged with alleged electoral fraud during the 2020 polls.
Her National League for Democracy party had swept the elections in a landslide, trouncing a military-aligned party by a wider margin than the previous 2015 election.
Since the coup, many of her political allies have been arrested, with one chief minister sentenced to 75 years in jail while others are in hiding.