Aug. 11 – Pro-democracy leader Aung Suu Kyi was found guilty by Burma’s military court of violating the conditions of her house arrest and was sentenced to another 18 months.
Suu Kyi has been placed under house arrest for a total of 14 years since 1989. According to The Irrawaddy, the court initially sentenced her to a three year prison term for allowing an American trespasser, John Yettaw, to stay in her house last May.
The sentence was then cut and changed to a house arrest under special order from junta leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe after a five minute court recess. Yettaw was sentenced to 7 years in prison, including 4 years of hard labor while Suu Kyi’s house companions, Win Ma Ma and Khin Khin Win, were given reduced sentences of 18 months each.
The sentence will hinder Suu Kyi from being active when Burma holds its national elections. Oliver Spencer, Burma Program Officer of the London-based Article 19 told The Irrawaddy in an e-mail:“We believe Suu Kyi is being imprisoned to stop her speaking and to limit her effect on next year’s elections.”
The Suu Kyi trial has been a controversial issue; sparking international outrage and calls for her release. Last month, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon tried to negotiate for her freedom and the release of Burma’s more than 2,000 political prisoners during his visit to the country.
The trial has also posed a problem to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) of which Burma has been a member for 12 years. ASEAN Secretary General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan told the media during a press conference of the group’s 42nd anniversary celebration that,“An issue has been with us and has been rather difficult for us all along but I don’t want to speculate on what the verdict (would be) and (its) impact (on ASEAN).”
The current ASEAN chair, Thailand, said in a statement made last May that as a member, Burma “has the responsibility to protect and promote human rights.”
It added: “With the eyes of the international community on Myanmar (Burma) at present, the honour and the credibility of the government are at stake.”