The military junta of Myanmar, accused by the UN and the U.S. State Department of genocide against the country’s minority Rohingya Muslim population, has charged the country’s elected leader, Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, with 19 criminal offenses that carry a combined maximum prison sentence of nearly 190 years. She has already been convicted of half a dozen charges, sentenced to 11 years in prison and has been moved from house arrest and placed in solitary confinement in a prison in Naypyitaw, Myanmar’s new capital and administrative center.
Suu Kyi was deposed in a military coup on February 1, 2021, less than three months after her National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide reelection. The coup sparked nationwide protests, which were brutally suppressed by the military junta.
The daughter of Myanmar’s legendary independence hero, Suu Kyi was first placed under house arrest in 1989 following massive street protests against decades of military rule. The Nobel Peace Committee awarded her the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for waging a “non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.”
It was not until 2010 that she was released from house arrest. Her NLD swept nationwide elections in 2015, which were held amid provisional military reforms that abruptly ended following the February 2021 coup.
Suu Kyi, who turned 77 June 19, faces spending the rest of her life behind bars if Myanmar’s military regime remains in power.
“I can tell you, we’re very concerned about these latest developments, which goes against everything we’ve been calling for,” said Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, the day Suu Kyi was placed in solitary confinement.
“The charges against her are politically motivated and bogus, and she has been imprisoned by a kangaroo court wholly beholden to the military,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch. “This is not justice; this is political retribution.”
Robertson urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a regional grouping of 10 countries, including Myanmar, to condemn Suu Kyi’s imprisonment and pressure Myanmar’s military rulers to free her.
On November 11, 2019, the Republic of The Gambia filed a suit against the Republic of the Union of Myanmar before the International Court of Justice in the Hague for committing genocide on the Muslim Rohingya minority in violation of the Genocide Convention. The deliberation of the court is still in process.
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