Monday, August 10, 2009

Regime Reportedly Divided Over Suu Kyi Sentence

The Irrawaddy News

The delays in the court proceeding against Aung San Suu Kyi are caused by disagreements within the military regime over how severely to punish her, according to Burmese army sources.

Some generals—notably Gen Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo, Secretary 1 of the ruling military council—are said to want to see her imprisoned. Others are reportedly in favor of a more lenient sentence for the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who was being held in house detention until the start of her trial in May.

Among those who appear to be reluctant to commit Suu Kyi to prison is Gen Thura Shwe Mann, Coordinator of Special Operations, Army, Navy and Air Force, according to the army source—who told The Irrawaddy he wanted to see Suu Kyi sentenced “within the framework of the law.”

Htay Aung, a Burmese military researcher based in Thailand, also said that some senior military generals are divided over the trial, with one faction keen to see Suu Kyi sentenced to a term of imprisonment, isolating her from the general election planned for 2010, and others wanting to apply the due process of law.

“The trial of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was postponed because some military generals wanted to consider it from a legal point of view,” said Htay Aung. He thought international pressure on the regime also played a part in the postponements.

Tin Aung Myint Oo is close to paramount leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe, who promoted the battle-hardened hardliner to the rank of four-star general in late March.

The general is also close to Aung Thaung, minister for Industry (1), an extreme nationalist believed to be one of the masterminds of the Depayin massacre in May 2003, when Suu Kyi’s motorcade was ambushed in central Burma. He is said to harbor a deep hatred of Suu Kyi.

Military sources suggest the rise of Tin Aung Myint Oo has intimidated a faction headed by the regime’s No 3, Gen Shwe Mann, who has been groomed to succeed Than Shwe. Lately, the general has been in charge of national security and the coordination of army, navy and air force.

Shwe Mann so far is loyal to Than Shwe but rivals are closely watching his relationship with business tycoons and some Burmese scholars, army sources told The Irrawaddy. The sources also disclosed that Information Minister Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan, a close ally of Shwe Mann, has been sidelined in the power struggle with the Tin Aung Myint Oo faction. But so far Shwe Mann has saved the information minister from the sack.

Observers inside Burma say Aung Thaung and Tin Aung Myint Oo are working together with the police and ministry of interior to influence the outcome of Suu Kyi’s trial.

Police Chief Gen Khin Yi and Minister of Home Affairs Maung Oo are close to the Tin Aung Myint Oo faction, and Khin Yi had been holding press briefings on Suu Kyi. It is believed that hardliners have instructed the police chief to concoct the case against Suu Kyi.

Last Friday, Gen Khin Yi claimed in comments to reporters that John William Yettaw, the American whose intrusion into Suu Kyi’s home initiated the case against her, had connections with Burmese exiled groups.

The police chief also denied media reports that the regime had plotted with Yettaw. Speculation continues to circulate in Rangoon that Yettaw had received a large sum of money from regime leaders to intrude into Suu Kyi’s home in May. It’s also speculated that Aung Thaung collaborated with Than Shwe and Tin Aung Myint Oo to concoct the case against Suu Kyi.

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