Myanmar’s military junta extended Nobel Peace laureate and pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s imprisonment by 18 months today after finding her guilty of violating the terms of her house arrest.
Critics of Myanmar’s military regime condemned the outcome of the 3-month sham trial, calling it a pretext to keep Aung San Suu Kyi out of the running during next year’s presidential elections.
The junta — which currently detains more than 2,100 political prisoners — commuted the sentence from three years hard labor in prison to an 18-month extension of house arrest in the hopes that the international community will view the reduced sentence as an act of leniency.
But Aung San Suu Kyi should have never been imprisoned in the first place.
Aung San Suu Kyi faced her oppressors last week on charges that could land her in jail for five years. The trial came just days before she was set to be released from house arrest. Her life is on the line. Her health is at risk, and five years of torture and abuse at the infamous Insein prison could spell disaster.
Amnesty International rapid response to these developments started 2 weeks ago in Australia (a member of ASEAN) when the Amnesty section over there mobilized and generated over 7,000 letters to ASEAN. Since then, the chairman of ASEAN called on Myanmar to release Aung San Suu Kyi.
Ma Khin Khin Leh was released from prison on Saturday, February 21. Her release follows an announcement by the Myanmar government that it would release 24 political prisoners. Ma Khin Khin Leh’s case was a focus of the AIUSA Global Write-a-thon last December. Over 7,000 AIUSA members wrote letters to the Burmese government on her behalf. In addition, AIUSA Group 48 has been collecting signatures to petition for Ma Khin Khin Leh’s release. Volunteers collected over 600 signatures at local concerts in Portland. The letters and petitions truly make a difference for the lives of individuals around the world.
A school teacher and young mother, Ma Khin Khin Leh, was serving a life sentence because her husband Kyaw Wunna tried to organize a peaceful demonstration in support of the National League for Democracy (NLD). Days before the demonstration was to take place, authorities moved to prevent it. The authorities could not find Kyaw Wunna so security agents arrested Ma Khin Khin Leh and the couple’s three-year-old daughter. Although her daughter was released after spending five days in detention, Ma Khin Khin Leh was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1999 under vaguely-worded security legislation.