Conflicts & War

Myanmar’s deposed leader Suu Kyi turns 76 under house arrest

By Gaspar Ruiz-Canela

Bangkok, June 19 (EFE).- Ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi turned 76 years Saturday under house arrest by the military junta that staged a coup on Feb. 1 and has embroiled her in an “Orwellian” judicial process.

The trial against the Nobel Peace laureate began on June 14 in the capital Naypyidaw with the military rulers pressing five charges against her.

The military alleges that she accepted a bribe, imported walkie-talkies, used illegal communications equipment, violated the natural disaster law, and caused “fear and alarm.”

Suu Kyi faces another trial in the Supreme Court. The military alleges that she violated the Official Secrets Act, the most serious accusation, which carries up to 14 years in prison.

Her lawyers have rejected all the charges against her.

The military, led by Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, arrested Suu Kyi on the day of the coup and has held her since then under arrest at an unknown location and virtually incommunicado.

Suu Kyi attended the preliminary hearings of the trial in the Naypyidaw court via videoconference and made her first in-person appearance in court only on May 24.

Her attorneys allege that the ousted leader is not aware of what is happening in the country caught in a spiral of violence between civil defense groups formed in the wake of the coup and the military that has killed hundreds of peaceful protesters.

At the last hearing on Tuesday, Suu Kyi complained to the judge that some of the food her lawyers had sent her from Yangon came in poor condition, which shows how precarious her situation is.

Suu Kyi, who is the daughter of independence icon Aung San, spent her youth outside Myanmar.

She studied at the University of Oxford and returned to Myanmar in 1988 to join protests against the then-military rulers.

She spent 15 years under house arrest at different points of time during successive military juntas.

She even refused to leave the country to say goodbye to her husband, Michael Aris, who died of cancer, for fear she would not be allowed to return to her country for a pro-democracy struggle.

“She was happy to be in disagreement with powerful people. She (is) courageous, extremely self-disciplined,” Peter Popham, a British journalist-author, told EFE.

Popham has interviewed Suu Kyi and written two books about her.

“I always felt that she completely deserved the Nobel Peace Prize (…) She was incredibly brave and she managed to give clear expression to the democratic desires of the Burmese people,” Popham said in a telephone interview.

He said Suu Kyi, known in her country as the “lady” or “mother Suu,” is a great speaker that she has shown in rallies before thousands of people, although also “very ambitious” and “without talent for practical politics.”

Suu Kyi, whose two sons grew up outside Myanmar, was released in 2010 and six years later became the de facto leader as the state counselor and foreign minister in a “disciplined democracy” planned and implemented by the military.

She has always enjoyed overwhelming support in her country.

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