Ousted Myanmar Leader Given Jail Term for Owning Walkie-Talkies

Aung San Suu Kyi, who was deposed in a coup last year, was given a four-year sentence as her politically motivated convictions mount.
aung san suu kyi conviction
Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to four years in prison on charges that included the illegal possession of walkie talkies. Photo: AFP/STR

A military court in Myanmar has convicted Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s ousted democratically-elected leader, for importing and possessing walkie talkies without a licence. 

Aung San Suu Kyi was handed a two-year prison sentence on Monday for the highly innocuous act that violated the country’s Export-Import Law, while she was handed a further two years in prison for violating coronavirus restrictions and a telecommunications law. 

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The convictions are among a litany of politically motivated charges that could in theory see her jailed for more than 100 years. Last month she was handed a four-year prison sentence on charges of incitement and breaking COVID-19 rules for holding political rallies in the run-up to the country’s national elections in November 2020. 

Her National League for Democracy (NLD) party won that election by a landslide, but the military alleged fraud. Consequently, she and other NLD figures were rounded up in early morning raids on Feb. 1 as the junta seized power in a coup d’etat. 

It was during those raids that Aung San Suu Kyi was allegedly found in possession of the contraband walkie talkies. As with her convictions last month, which were reduced to two years and commuted to house arrest, she is unlikely to serve time in jail, as military chief Min Aung Hlaing aims to foster an image of benevolence to quell further protests. 

More than 1,400 people have died in Myanmar since February as widespread anti-coup protests have been met with a bloody crackdown by security forces. Massacres perpetrated by government soldiers have become routine in the country, with the latest on Christmas Eve seeing up to 38 civilians killed and their bodies burned in eastern Myanmar’s Kayah State. Women and children were among those slaughtered, with two workers from international non-profit Save the Children also killed. 

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The conviction of Aung San Suu Kyi comes in the wake of the controversial visit of Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen to Myanmar, the first of a foreign leader since the coup.

He visited the country’s de facto ruler Min Aung Hlaing on Jan. 7, a trip that has been described as “cowboy diplomacy” and widely criticised for conferring legitimacy to the military regime. 

Ahead of the trip, the Cambodian government issued a statement saying that it was “strongly hopeful that a diplomatic solution will take place for the benefits of all parties and all political ideologies in a direction toward genuine peace, political stability, and development of our Myanmar friends.”

Hun Sen did not meet with Aung San Suu Kyi or others from Myanmar’s deposed government during the visit, with critics also pointing to the strongman’s own dismal human rights record during his 36-year rule as undermining his ability to play any role in achieving peace in the country. 

During the trip, Min Aung Hlaing declared an extension of a ceasefire between the military and ethnic armed groups until the end of 2022. The declaration was declared a “joke” by critics as the junta continued in its violent assault of ethnic areas. 

Follow Alastair McCready on Twitter.