Myanmar court sentences Suu Kyi to 5 years for corruption

  • Myanmar's State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi reviews an honor guard at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on April 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith, File)

BANGKOK — A court in military-ruled Myanmar convicted former leader Aung San Suu Kyi of corruption and sentenced her to five years in prison Wednesday in the first of several corruption cases against her.

Suu Kyi, 76, who was ousted by an army takeover last year, has denied the allegation that she accepted gold and hundreds of thousands of dollars in a bribe from a top political colleague.

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Her supporters and independent legal experts consider Suu Kyi’s prosecution an unjust attempt to discredit her and legitimize the military’s seizure of power while preventing her from returning to an active role in politics.

The daughter of Aung San, Myanmar’s founding father, Suu Kyi became a public figure in 1988 during a failed uprising against a previous military government when she helped found the National League for Democracy party. She spent 15 of the next 21 years under house arrest for leading a nonviolent struggle for democracy that earned her the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize. When the army allowed an election in 2015, her party won a landslide victory and she became the de facto head of state. Her party won a greater majority in the 2020 polls.

Suu Kyi is widely revered at home for her role in the country’s pro-democracy movement — and was long viewed abroad as an icon of that struggle, epitomized by her years under house arrest.

But she also has been heavily criticized for showing deference to the military while ignoring and, at times, even defending rights violations — most notably a 2017 crackdown on Rohingya Muslims that rights groups have labeled genocide. While she has disputed allegations that army personnel killed Rohingya civilians, torched houses and raped women and she remains immensely popular at home, that stance has tarnished her reputation abroad.

She has already been sentenced to six years’ imprisonment in other cases and faces 10 more corruption charges.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated his appeal Tuesday for Myanmar’s military to release all political prisoners including Suu Kyi and his condemnation of the military takeover of the country on Feb. 1, 2021, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.

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