Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The military logic to Suu Kyi's trial

The trial of Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has ended amid heightened security around the area near the court, with hundreds of trucks full of armed soldiers stationed around Insein prison where the proceedings took place. The prison court is expected to announce its highly anticipated verdict on Friday.

The junta's plan to hold democratic elections next year - the first since Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) overwhelmingly won May 1990 polls that were annulled by the military - has been put on hold pending the trial's result. People familiar with the situation say that junta leader Senior General Than Shwe will announce in the wake of the verdict the formation of a civilian-led interim government that will hold administrative power until elections are held next year.

It's a move, analysts say, designed to deflect growing international criticism.
Many critics and observers see the trial as a sham aimed at influencing the upcoming election results in the military's favor. While the prosecution was allowed 23 witnesses, of whom 14 took the stand, the defense was only permitted two of the four witnesses they requested to appear in court, underscoring rights groups' criticism that Myanmar's judiciary lacks independence.

Regime critics have echoed that assessment.The junta fears Aung San Suu Kyi and wants to keep her locked up forever. With elections planned for 2010, they cannot afford to have her free to campaign against them. While locals anxiously await the trial's verdict, few analysts believe that a guilty verdict will spark major public protests similar to those in 2007, which started as complaints against fast-rising food and fuel prices and later brought thousands out onto the streets in broad anti-government demonstrations led by Buddhist monks. That failed attempt at people's power regime change became known around the world as the Saffron Revolution.

All indications are that the generals, unless pushed by their main patrons in Beijing, will as in the past ignore international calls for Suu Kyi's release and genuine political

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