Myanmar: Aung San Suu Kyi moved to solitary confinement in prison

Myanmar: Aung San Suu Kyi moved to solitary confinement in prison

File image of Aung San Suu Kyi. AP

Ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been moved from house arrest to solitary confinement in a prison compound in the military-built capital Naypyidaw, a junta spokesman said on Thursday.

Since her ouster in a coup last year, Suu Kyi had been under house arrest at an undisclosed location in Naypyidaw, accompanied by several domestic staff and her dog, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.

The Nobel laureate, 77, left those premises only to attend hearings for her numerous trials in a junta court that could see her handed a prison sentence of more than 150 years.

On Wednesday, she was transferred from house arrest to “solitary confinement in prison”, junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun said in a statement.

Her future trial hearings would take place inside a newly-built courtroom inside the prison compound, he added.

A source with knowledge of the case said Suu Kyi’s domestic staff and her dog had not accompanied her when she was moved on Wednesday, and that security around the prison compound was “tighter than before”.

“Aung San Suu Kyi is in good health as far as we know,” they added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Since seizing power, Myanmar’s military government has detained thousands of pro-democracy protesters, with many facing secret trials that rights groups have decried as politically motivated.

Suu Kyi’s lawyers have been banned from speaking to the media, with journalists barred from her trial and the junta rebuffing requests by foreign diplomats to meet her.

“For the sake of the country and people, she (Suu Kyi) has sacrificed everything, but the wicked people are ungrateful and cruel,” one social media user posted on Facebook following Thursday’s announcement.

Role of ASEAN

Meanwhile, a UN expert warned Thursday, after a long period of stalled diplomacy, Southeast Asia’s regional bloc must increase pressure on Myanmar’s junta or there will be more death and suffering.

Asked about the bloc’s efforts, Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said that “clearly, more needs to be done”.

“The longer we wait, the more inaction that there is, the more people are going to die, the more people are going to suffer,” he said.

“The people of Myanmar just can’t take another year of inaction,” added Andrews, speaking at the end of a visit to ASEAN member Malaysia, which has strongly criticised the coup.

He said the five-point consensus, hammered out at a meeting in Jakarta in April 2021, is “meaningless if it sits on a piece of paper”.

“It’s only chance of making a difference is if it’s put into meaningful action.”

He said Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah had suggested “practical, pragmatic steps forward” and urged regional leaders to heed his recommendations.

Some ASEAN states have spoken out against the military takeover, but others have appeared reluctant to take a strong stand.

‘Punitive’ 

The UN Special Rapporteur’s sentiments were echoed by Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, who said, “What we are seeing is the Myanmar junta moving towards a much more punitive phase, towards Aung San Suu Kyi.”

“They are obviously trying to intimidate her and her supporters.”

Under a previous junta regime, Suu Kyi spent long spells under house arrest in her family mansion in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city.

In 2009, she spent around three months in Yangon’s Insein prison while she went on trial after being accused of harbouring an American man who swam across a lake to visit her while she was living under house arrest.

Under the current regime, she has already been convicted of corruption, incitement against the military, breaching Covid-19 rules and breaking a telecommunications law, with a court sentencing her to 11 years so far.

Suu Kyi turned 77 on Sunday and brought a birthday cake to court to eat with her lawyers ahead of a hearing on Monday, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

The coup last year sparked widespread protests and unrest that the military has sought to crush by force.

Fighting has flared with established ethnic rebel groups in border areas, and across the country “People’s Defence Forces” have sprung up to fight junta troops.

According to local monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, the crackdown has left more than 2,000 civilians dead while more than 14,000 have been arrested.

With input from AFP

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