follow the repression of the Burmese military junta, as intense in the streets as in the courts. On leader Aung San Suu Kyi one fell today three year sentence, which is not the first nor will it be the last, for violating the State Secrets Law. She has already accumulated 23 years in prison for the Nobel Peace Prize since she began a judicial marathon with no end in sight and with the undisguised objective of banishing her from the civil and political scene.
Suu-kyi, first placed under house arrest and then imprisoned, has denied the myriad of accusations that could land her a century in jail. She has sat on the bench for violating the natural disaster management law, inciting violence, corruption, electoral fraud… her defenders speak of political motivations and human rights organizations record the procedural abuses.
The court has also sentenced this morning to three years a Australian academic, Sean Turnell, with old ties to the country. A professor at Macquarie University and director of the Myanmar Development Institute, his case has generated diplomatic friction with Canberra since he was arrested 19 months ago. Foreign Minister Penny Wong has denounced his “unjust detention” and asked the Board to allow her to return with his family to Australia. His wife, Ha Vu, has appealed to Turnell’s two decades spent improving the Burmese economy to ask her jailers to deport him.
Australian academic, sentenced
The specific crimes are unknown due to the secret nature of the processes, but the state press had clarified last year that Turnell had access to classified financial information from the State and tried to flee. Both acts are as plausible as they are understandable if we consider that he acted as economic adviser to Suu Kyi and witnessed the revenge of the military after the coup.
His sentence delves into a path of arbitrary punishments to foreigners which reveals the little concern of the Board to recover its role as a global pariah. Vicky Bowman, the former British ambassador to Burma, was recently sentenced to a year in jail for breaking immigration laws. The court had charged her with failing to register the address of her new home in the capital. Before they had been two journalists sentenced, the American Danny Fenster and the Japanese Yuki Kitazumi, already released. Some 12,000 people have been arrested since the coup in February last year, according to the Association of Political Prisoners, and at least 2,300 have died during the repression.
The return of burma to its dictatorial normality was conceived in the indigestion caused to the military by the results of the elections of the previous November. The National League for Democracy (LND), led by Suu Kyi, overwhelmed with 83% of the votes. The Party for Development and the Solidarity Union, sponsored by the military, had only 33 of the 476 parliamentary seats left. He was a blow to the ego of the military chief, Min Aung Hlaing. The denunciations of rigging and demands for new clean elections intensified from his side until the predictable riot that underlined the fragility of the democratic transition.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.