Meanwhile in Burma
Understandably lost on events in the Middle East is the continuing trial of Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi. The Burmese junta have put Suu Kyi on trial after she allowed a trespassing American to stay on her property overnight, in violation of her interminable house arrest. Since then, she has been subject to harsh ...
Understandably lost on events in the Middle East is the continuing trial of Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi. The Burmese junta have put Suu Kyi on trial after she allowed a trespassing American to stay on her property overnight, in violation of her interminable house arrest. Since then, she has been subject to harsh prison treatment in the infamous Insein Prison and the typical authoritarian show trial, and international condemnation has been both swift and nigh universal.
Since June began, though, small hints that even the Burmese junta was sensitive to internation impressions were appearing, as the regime allowed the defense team to appeal how many witnesses it could call. Now, her trial has been postpone until the end of the month, with the defense being allowed to call another witness. This does not mean that the trial has suddenly become open and fair; as the British ambassador to Burma, Mark Canning, rightly points out:
This delay suits the government fine. It conveys an impression that the wheels of justice are turning and that there is some doubt about the final outcome. Of course there isn’t. Daw Suu* will be found guilty – the only question is the length of the sentence and where she will serve it.
The number of political prisoners has increased by more than 1,000 over the past 16 months. There is no precedent for the acquittal of those accused of serious “political crimes” and certainly not someone of her stature. Comedians, doctors, bloggers, journalists, housewives and aid workers have been packed off to Burma’s jails and work camps. They are generally sentenced at short, closed hearings. The unusual thing about this trial is that the status of the defendant obliges a spurious impression of openness.
Still, it’s telling that even in a country like Burma, these token gestures at openness and fairness have become required.
STEPHEN SHAVER/AFP/Getty Images
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