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NLD slams junta transfer of Suu Kyi to prison in Myanmar capital

Myanmar’s deposed National League for Democracy (NLD) on Tuesday condemned the junta’s decision to move party leader Aung San Suu Kyi from detention to a prison in the nation’s capital, citing poor conditions and lack of access to health care at the facility.

On June 23, the junta announced that Suu Kyi had been transferred to Naypyidaw Prison. The 77-year-old has been charged in 19 cases since her arrest during the military’s Feb. 1, 2021, coup and sentenced to 11 years in prison for six of them.

According to local media reports, authorities at Naypyidaw Prison began constructing a new building to house Suu Kyi last month and three female prison staffers have been assigned to monitor her. RFA reported last week that Suu Kyi had begun a new trial at a special court in Naypyidaw Prison.

Speaking to RFA Burmese on Tuesday, NLD Central Working Committee member Kyaw Htwe called the decision to move the party leader “a stain on Myanmar’s history” and warned that the military is fully responsible for her health and safety.

“They weren’t satisfied with the arbitrary arrest of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and now they have sent her to Naypyidaw Prison. This coup was one of the greatest mistakes in Myanmar’s history and can never be erased,” he said, using an honorific for the imprisoned leader.

“With the intention of undermining the aspirations of the country and subduing the people, they did this to her, a leader who cannot be left out of Myanmar politics, who is the only person capable of making important decisions for the country, and who until now, has the support of the international community and still fully represents the people. If any danger befalls her, the junta will be totally responsible.”

Kyaw Htwe noted that Naypyidaw Prison — like many other prisons in Myanmar — is plagued by unsafe drinking water, insects such as mosquitoes and flies, sanitation problems and a lack of fresh air.

In a statement on Tuesday, the working committee also criticized the decision to move Suu Kyi, warning that it will be difficult to provide the elderly leader with timely medical treatment in the event of an emergency.

The NLD also slammed the junta for arresting a public leader who it said had “committed no crime under any law,” as well as “threatening lawyers seeking to provide her with legal protection.” The statement alleged that Suu Kyi had “lost her legal right to defend herself” and is therefore facing an “unjust legal process.”

Little is known about Suu Kyi’s status, but sources close to the NLD leader told RFA that after being transferred to Naypyidaw Prison, the military placed her in solitary confinement and prohibited her former aides from attending to her.

Attempts by RFA to contact junta Deputy Information Minister Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun for comment on the transfer and conditions at the prison went unanswered Tuesday, although he confirmed to the media on Monday that Suu Kyi is being held in solitary confinement.

Zin Ko, a resident of the commercial capital Yangon, said he was shocked by the news of Suu Kyi’s imprisonment.

“What worries me is that she will be alone in the prison with only prison staff nearby, so how will her daily needs be met?” he asked.

“[The public is] very shocked. It’s very important for her to survive for the sake of our country’s future. She is one of the few good leaders who can rebuild our nation from ruin.”

More pressure likely

News of Suu Kyi’s transfer came as Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) special envoy to Myanmar, Prak Sakhorn, who is expected to visit Myanmar June 29-30, wrote an open letter to the junta’s Foreign Ministry on Monday, expressing the bloc’s concern over Suu Kyi’s condition and urging the regime to return to her original place of detention. The junta immediately rejected the request in a statement to the media that said nobody is above the law in Myanmar and warned others about meddling in the affairs of a sovereign nation.

Myanmar-based political analyst Sai Kyi Zin Soe on Tuesday told RFA that the junta’s move to imprison Suu Kyi will increase international pressure on the regime.

“There are very few things that the U.N. or ASEAN can do effectively, but other countries have taken action against the junta [for violently oppressing the people of Myanmar] in their own way,” he said, referring to sanctions imposed by the U.S., U.K. and European Union.

“I think that more of this type of action is likely to happen.”

Suu Kyi is facing an additional 13 charges, convictions on which could extend her 11-year sentence to more than 100 years in prison. The top leaders of the NLD-led government, members of Parliament and many opponents of the military coup are facing trial in the Special Court in Naypyidaw Prison. Those convicted are often transferred to Yamethin Prison near Naypyidaw.

Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, on June 23 expressed concern for Suu Kyi’s well-being and said her transfer was in defiance of a recent call by the U.N. Security Council for Myanmar to release all political prisoners.

Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.