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Deposed Myanmar leader Suu Kyi moved to solitary confinement

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was ousted by the military (Markus Schreiber/AP)
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was ousted by the military (Markus Schreiber/AP)

Myanmar’s ousted pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been transferred to solitary confinement in a prison in the capital Naypyitaw.

Ms Suu Kyi was arrested on February 1 2021 when the army seized power from her elected government.

She was initially held at her residence in Naypyitaw but was later moved to at least one other location.

For most of the past year, she has been held at an undisclosed location in Naypyitaw, generally believed to be on a military base.

Myanmar Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi is in solitary confinement (AP)

Major General Zaw Min Tun, spokesperson for the ruling military council, confirmed in a text message to journalists that Ms Suu Kyi was moved on Wednesday to the main prison in Naypyitaw, where she is being held separately in “well-kept” circumstances.

He said Suu Kyi, having already been convicted in several cases, was transferred to the prison in accordance with the law.

A legal official familiar with Ms Suu Kyi’s court proceedings said she is being held in a newly constructed building with three policewomen, whose duty is to assist her.

Her ongoing trials will also be held at the prison, in another newly constructed facility.

Ms Suu Kyi, who turned 77 on Sunday, spent about 15 years in detention under a previous military government but virtually all of it was under house arrest at her family home in Yangon, the country’s biggest city.

The secret location where she had been held for most of the past year was a residence.

She had nine people to help her there, and was allowed to keep a dog that was a gift arranged by one of her sons, said another legal official.

The official said neither her assistants nor the dog accompanied Ms Suu Kyi to her new prison quarters.

She is being tried on multiple charges, including corruption. Her supporters say the charges are politically motivated to discredit her and legitimise the military’s seizure of power.

She has already been sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment on charges of illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, violating coronavirus restrictions, sedition and an initial count of corruption.

The prison where Ms Suu Kyi is being held is slightly west of Naypyitaw. It was constructed in 2014 to temporarily hold detainees awaiting trial.

One of the legal officials said Ms Suu Kyi’s first hearing in the new prison courtroom was held on Thursday in the case of violating the Official Secrets Act.

Defence lawyers cross examined three prosecution witnesses but details of their testimony was not available.

All of Ms Suu Kyi’s cases have been held in closed hearings. Her lawyers are prohibited from discussing the proceedings.

Ms Suu Kyi’s co-defendants in the case are Australian economist Sean Turnell, who had been her advisor, and three former Cabinet members.

Ms Suu Kyi is also being tried on 11 counts of corruption, each of which carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years, and an election fraud charge, which carries a maximum sentence of three years.

The military’s takeover last year triggered peaceful nationwide protests that security forces quashed with lethal force, triggering armed resistance that some UN experts now characterise as civil war.

The ruling military council has said it plans to hold new elections around the middle of next year if circumstances permit. However, critics caution such polls are unlikely to be free and fair.

Tom Andrews, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said that the military has been working hard to “create an impression of legitimacy” after ousting Ms Suu Kyi’s government.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in a November 2020 general election. The army claimed it seized power because the polls were marred by widespread fraud — an allegation that was not corroborated by independent election observers.

“Any suggestion that there could be any possibility of a free and fair election in Myanmar in 2023 is frankly preposterous,” Mr Andrews said at a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. “You can’t have a free and fair election if you locked up your opponents.”