BANGKOK, KOMPAS.com — Although detained by Myanmar’s military government on a slew of charges, ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi was able to hold a small birthday celebration during a court appearance Monday, June 20, a legal official said.
Suu Kyi, whose elected government was overthrown by the army in February 2021, turned 77 on Sunday, June 19.
She is among over 11,124 people currently detained for opposing military rule, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which keeps detailed tallies of civilians jailed or killed by government forces.
The military’s seizure of power met with widespread resistance, and some UN experts now describe Myanmar as being in a civil war.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party won a landslide election victory in 2020, and she remains widely regarded by Myanmar’s people as the country’s legitimate leader. She is admired for leading a long, nonviolent struggle to restore democracy in Myanmar, for which she won a Nobel Peace Prize. But once-admiring foreign sympathizers blame her for doing little or nothing to stop atrocities committed by security forces against the Muslim Rohingya minority in 2017.
Suu Kyi is now being tried on multiple charges, including corruption, that her supporters say are politically motivated to discredit her and legitimize the military’s seizure of power. She has already been sentenced to 11 years in prison after being convicted on charges of illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, violating coronavirus restrictions, sedition and an initial corruption charge.
A legal official familiar with her court proceedings said Suu Kyi cut a cake to celebrate her birthday when she met with her lawyers before Monday’s court hearing on corruption charges, then gave pieces to her lawyers, police and court staff. The cake had been sent on her birthday by her lawyers via police to the secret location where she is being held, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to release information.
All of Suu Kyi’s trials are closed to the media, and the public and her lawyers have been barred by a gag order from providing details of the proceedings.
Suu Kyi’s 77th birthday was an occasion for celebration as well as for protests demanding the release of all political prisoners.