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Myanmar: Suu Kyi and Australian Economist Sentenced to 3 Years

    Myanmar: Suu Kyi and Australian Economist Sentenced to 3 Years
    Last updated: 2 months ago
    Image credit: BBC

    Facts

    • On Thursday, a military court in Naypyitaw sentenced Myanmar's ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her Australian economic advisor Sean Turnell to three years in jail for violating the Official Secrets Act. [1]
    • The two were charged alongside three other cabinet members, who were handed the same prison terms based on documents seized with Turnell, who allegedly had access to "secret state financial information." [2]
    • Turnell was also convicted of violating Myanmar's Immigration Act and given a three-year prison sentence to be served concurrently. He has been detained since Feb. 6, 2021, shortly after Suu Kyi was ousted. [3]
    • Though Myanmar's military junta claims that courts are independent and respect due process, rights groups have deemed the closed-door trial a "sham" and criticized its ruling. Australia's Foreign Minister Penny Wong also rejected the sentence, calling for Turnell's immediate release. [4]
    • Since the military takeover in 2021, there have reportedly been more than 15.6K people arrested, of which 12.5K are said to be detained. Information about court proceedings has been limited as journalists are barred from access to these hearings. [5]
    • This verdict is the latest in a string of trials involving Nobel-winner Suu Kyi, who has been convicted to 23 years in prison so far. She is still being tried on seven charges under Myanmar's anti-corruption law. [6]
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    Spin

    Pro-establishment narrative

    Suu Kyi and Turnell are among many who've been detained not by an objective rule of law but by clear political motivation to repress any opposition to the Myanmar coup. Although the judiciary is said to be independent, corruption is a deep-rooted problem and everyone within the justice system has a military background.

    Establishment-critical narrative

    Turnell and the four other co-defendants have been prosecuted following Myanmar's rule of law. He attempted to run away from the country carrying secret economic data. This ruling has nothing to do with nationality or political affiliations, but with their actions as cabinet members.

    Narrative C

    Having issued no new sanctions to Myanmar since the coup, Australia is lagging behind the firm stance of its Western allies. "Soft diplomacy" has failed to ensure Turnell's release, and the country must now use targeted sanctions to provide leverage and act against the countless human rights violations.

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