The Burmese junta is tightening its grip even more around Aung San Suu Kyi: the former leader, overthrown last year and until now under house arrest, has been transferred to a prison in the capital Naypyidaw. “In accordance with criminal laws (…), she is now placed in solitary confinement in prison,” army spokesman Zaw Min Tun said in a statement on Thursday, without further details.
Since her arrest in the February 1, 2021 coup, Aung San Suu Kyi had been held incommunicado in Naypyidaw, accompanied by several domestic workers and her dog. The 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate was only allowed to go out to attend the hearings of her river trial at the end of which she risks decades of detention.
She is now completely alone without her staff or her pet who have not been allowed to follow her. “She acts as before and keeps her spirits up (…) She is used to calmly facing any type of situation,” a source familiar with the matter told AFP. “She is in good health as far as we know,” said another source familiar with the matter, adding that security around the prison compound was “tighter than before”. Aung San Suu Kyi “has sacrificed everything for the love of her country and her people, but (the military) are ungrateful and cruel”; “Release Suu Kyi so she can do more good things for our country”, could we read on social networks.
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“The Burmese junta is moving towards a much more punitive phase with regard to Aung San Suu Kyi”, commented Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia of the NGO Human Rights Watch. “They are obviously trying to intimidate her and her supporters.” Her trial, which began a year ago, will now be held in the penitentiary center where she is imprisoned. She is accused of a multitude of offenses (violation of a law on state secrets dating from the colonial era, electoral fraud, sedition, corruption, etc.) and has already been sentenced to eleven years in prison. The hearings are held behind closed doors, his lawyers being prohibited from speaking to the press or to international organisations.
Many observers denounce a trial solely motivated, according to them, by political considerations: definitively excluding from power the daughter of the hero of independence, big winner of the 2015 and 2020 elections. At the end of May, relatives of the former leader filed a complaint against the junta with a UN working group, citing its “judicial kidnapping”.
The coup against Aung San Suu Kyi plunged the country into chaos. Local militias backed by ethnic rebel factions took up arms against the military. The junta’s repression is fierce. More than 2,000 civilians have been killed by security forces and more than 11,000 are being held in army jails, according to a local NGO. Many opponents are judged in the greatest secrecy.
Disappeared from the radar
At the beginning of June, the generals announced the forthcoming execution of four detainees, including a former member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s party and a famous pro-democracy activist. These will be the first judicial executions in the country since 1990. The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently denounced “the policy of terror” implemented by the junta, described as an “illegitimate” regime.
Under previous military dictatorships, Aung San Suu Kyi spent 15 years under house arrest at her family compound in Yangon, the country’s largest city. She remains a very popular figure in Burma, even if her international image has been tarnished by her inability to defend the Muslim minority of the Rohingyas, victims of discrimination and serious abuses.
But she has completely disappeared from the radar since her arrest, only appearing in rare snaps taken by state media in court. Aung San Suu Kyi turned 77 on Sunday. On Monday, she brought a birthday cake which she ate with her lawyers before the court hearing, according to the source familiar with the matter.