Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Than Shwe’s ‘Mercy’ is Meaningless

The Irrawaddy News

The notorious Insein Prison court sentenced Aung San Suu Kyi to three years imprisonment with hard labor around noon on Tuesday. Hold your anger. Mercy then dropped from above. Her captor, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, interfered with the court’s harsh decision by halving her sentence and allow her to return home. Thank God. Oh no! Thank Than Shwe.

As soon as the court read the verdict, Home Minister Maj-Gen Maung Oo entered the courtroom like the Deus ex Machina of classical Greek drama and announced that Than Shwe, head of the ruling junta, had ordered the sentence cut to 18 months. Than Shwe said in his statement, read to the court by the minister, that he had issued the order for four reasons—Suu Kyi is the daughter of Aung San, Burma’s independence hero, in the interests of the country’s peace and stability, and for the absence of grudges and to avoid obstacles on the way towards democracy.

Apart from halving her sentence, said the minister, Than Shwe had ruled that she would serve the 18 months at home, under house arrest. But the merciful gestures didn’t stop there—Maung Oo said Suu Kyi could expect an amnesty if she complied with the disciplines the government would set up during that time.

Under the terms of this new house arrest order, Suu Kyi can receive visits from her doctor and other guests, watch state-run TV and read approved newspapers.

Two of Suu Kyi’s women companions were also recipients of Than Shwe’s benevolence. The two members of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, who were also convicted of giving shelter to the American intruder John W Yettaw, had their sentences halved. Yettaw wasn’t so lucky—he was sentenced to a total of seven years hard labor.

Than Shwe’s intervention in the trial indicated that he and his regime want to counter international criticism of their treatment of Suu Kyi by cultivating an image of a constructive and merciful leader, even though their kangaroo court had condemned an innocent person.

Despite her innocence, Suu Kyi—who has spent 14 of the past 20 years under house arrest—is seen by the generals as the most dangerous person on earth, capable of destroying their planned election in 2010.

When she went on trial in May, Suu Kyi faced a possible prison sentence of five years. The minimum sentence for her “crime” was three years, and most observers expected this would be her punishment.

Basically, the generals wanted to keep Suu Kyi locked up until after the 2010 election. A sentence of 18 months served their purpose and gave an aura of clemency to the court.

The junta had anyway inserted in the constitution approved by a referendum in 2008 a provision excluding Suu Kyi from the highest public office. The Article 59—Qualifications of the President and Vice-President Article—states: “The President of the Union himself, parents, spouse, children and their spouses shall not owe allegiance to a foreign country, nor be subject of a foreign or citizen of a foreign country.”

That article automatically bars Suu Kyi from any leadership role as she is the widow of a British scholar and mother of two sons who are not Burmese citizens.

However, that is not enough for the generals. Her conviction now on a trumped-up charge actually bars her from participating in the political arena for ever.

The constitution’s Article 121 states that a person serving a prison term or having been convicted for an offence shall not be entitled to be elected to parliament. That clearly means that Suu Kyi can never stand for election.

Than Shwe seems to be saying: “Suu Kyi, see you after our election.” He could add, however, “But we’ll never see each other in the political arena.”

Recent Posts from Burma Wants Freedom and Democracy

Recent posts from WHO is WHO in Burma


The Nuke Light of Myanmar Fan Box
The Nuke Light of Myanmar on Facebook
Promote your Page too