Myanmar junta pardons Aung San Suu Kyi, postpones election it promised to hold after seizing power in 2021 coup
- Suu Kyi will be pardoned for five of the 19 offences for which she was jailed for a total of 33 years. Ex-president Win Myint was also pardoned
- Meanwhile, the generals said violence following their 2021 coup made an election ‘that is free and fair’ and voting ‘without any fear’ impossible
The pardons would mean a reduction in her jail term of six years, junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun told the Eleven Media Group.
The military’s State Administration Council also pardoned former president Win Myint, who was also arrested at the same time as Suu Kyi after the 2021 coup, on some of the charges for which he was convicted resulting in a reduction of four years in his jail term, the junta spokesman was quoted as saying.
Suu Kyi, 78, denied all of the charges for which she was convicted, ranging from incitement and election fraud to corruption, and has been appealing against them.
An informed source said both Suu Kyi and Win Myint would remain in detention.
“She won’t be free from house arrest,” said the source who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Suu Kyi, the daughter of Myanmar’s independence hero, was first put under house arrest in 1989 after huge protests against decades of military rule.
In 1991, she won the Nobel Peace Prize for campaigning for democracy but was only fully released from house arrest in 2010. She swept a 2015 election, held as part of tentative military reforms and her party won the next election in November 2020.
Many governments, particularly in the West, have called for the unconditional release of Suu Kyi and thousands of others detained in a bloody crackdown that the junta unleashed against pro-democracy protests in the wake of the coup.
One diplomatic source described the pardons as a “cosmetic move”.
“This is a signal to the international community – without doing anything substantive,” said the source who declined to be identified.
Junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing, in a meeting on Monday with the army-backed National Defence and Security Council, extended a state of emergency by six more months.
The military had pledged to hold elections by August 2023 after it overthrew Suu Kyi’s elected government, but it cited ongoing violence as a reason to postpone the vote.
“While holding an election, in 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,” read the junta statement on state TV.
In response to the junta’s postponement announcement, the US State Department said extending the state of emergency would plunge the country “deeper into violence and instability”.
“The regime’s widespread brutality and disregard for the democratic aspirations of the people of Burma continue to prolong the crisis,” said State Department spokesman Matthew Miller, using the former name for the country.
The United Nations Secretary General said in a statement: “We want to return to democratic rule in Myanmar as soon as possible”.