08/01/2023, 14.11
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Myanmar junta grants phoney pardon to Aung San Suu Kyi

Sources say Myanmar’s former leader will remain under house arrest to reduce international pressure. The US State Department yesterday slammed the extension of the state of emergency, which will lead to further escalation of violence. While hunger is growing among the population, the junta’s senior general raised the pensions of former junta officials.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – Myanmar's ruling military junta has decided to grant a partial pardon to former leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Following the coup d'état of 1 February 2021, the 78-year-old was subjected to a show trial and convicted on several charges, most notably illegal possession of walkie-talkies and violation of state secrets.

According to military spokesman Zaw Min Tun, Suu Kyi’s 33-year sentence would be reduced by six years, while that of ousted President U Win Myint, also arrested during the coup, would be cut by four.

More than 7,000 political prisoners were equally pardoned, but the military has a habit of releasing detainees to mark national observances only to rearrest them immediately afterwards.

Aung San Suu Kyi was moved recently from a prison in the capital, Naypyidaw, to house arrest; however, an anonymous source told Reuters that she would still be detained. “This is a signal to the international community – without doing anything substantive,” the source noted.

Meanwhile, the situation in the country is not improving. A brutal civil has raged in the past two years pitting  army troops against resistance forces. The latter include ethnic militias and the People's Defence Forces, the armed wing of the National Unity Government (NUG) in exile.

Yesterday, the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Services, General Aung Min Hlaing, extended the state of emergency for another six months, postponing the elections once again, which were set for August but were bound  to be a farce according to many observers.

"[I]n order to have an election that is free and fair and also to be able to vote without any fear, necessary security arrangements are still needed and so the period for the state of emergency is required to extend," said the junta in a statement read on state TV.

However, the US State Department warned that extending the state of emergency would lead to more violence and instability.

"The regime's widespread brutality and disregard for the democratic aspirations of the people of Burma continue to prolong the crisis," State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

In fact, fighting continues across the country with almost two million internally displaced people, this according to the United Nations. Another 18 million, a third of the population, need some form of humanitarian assistance.

According to a World Bank report last month, malnutrition and hunger are on the rise. About 48 per cent of farming households said they were worried about having something to eat, up from about 26 per cent last year.

In the past 12 months, some economic growth has been reported, but this has been highly uneven. The poorest are suffering the consequences of the civil war more than any other group.

For his part, Senior General Hlaing has decided to raise the pensions of retired officials from previous juntas, which were as low as 2,000 kyats, to 1.5 million (US$ 715).

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