Myanmar’s State Counsellor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is at risk of spending the next two years in prison after her sentences for breaching the country’s state secrets act were on Monday reduced by half. Suu Kyi had been facing a three-year jail sentence after she was charged last year following a Guardian report linking her top aides to the killing of five Rohingya Muslims near the northern Myanmar town of Inn Din in 2015.
The villagers of Inn Din had alleged that soldiers had tortured them and burned their houses to stop them from leaving. Those charges prompted US sanctions and sanctions bans imposed by Britain and the European Union. Suu Kyi led her party to a landslide victory in the country’s 2016 election and has presided over a reformist movement that has won her international respect for ending decades of junta-imposed repression, and for tackling the country’s myriad issues of corruption and impunity. But that earned her criticism for failing to challenge Myanmar’s powerful military on human rights abuses against the Rohingya, which she has repeatedly called a “big disaster” and a “tragedy.”
The state secrets court in northern Rakhine had previously condemned Suu Kyi to a year in prison and barred her from public office for five years. Under the amended law, her sentence was reduced to one year and she will also now not have to give evidence at any trial for the killing of Inn Din villagers because of her personal status. It is not clear what evidence authorities are trying to use against Suu Kyi. The amended law was passed by a parliament stacked with army appointees, many of whom have failed to stamp out the abuses documented by the UN.
“She is more of a ‘vole of parliament’ than a real parliamentarian. She’s not an active citizen and she’s not a decision maker,” said Fauzi Zahir, an associate fellow at Chatham House who focuses on the northern Rakhine region. “So the law can still hold her responsible.” The government has said it will be prepared to intervene if needed to calm the situation. The Muslim Rohingya remain at the forefront of the conflict in Rakhine in which at least 400,000 were forced to flee their homes, mostly to Bangladesh, after a brutal military campaign against insurgents in 2012.
With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse