With her reputation damaged by Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims, civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi is under pressure to secure amnesty for two journalists jailed after exposing military atrocities, as worries deepen about the country’s backsliding toward authoritarianism. Jailed
On Monday, Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were sentenced to seven years in prison for violating state secrets laws, after receiving documents from police officers. Human-rights groups criticized the trial as a sham. They noted irregularities including a police officer called as a prosecution witness who said the journalists had been set up, and another who testified he had burned his notes of the arrest.
Her course of action represents a test for the former head of Myanmar’s democracy movement. She has faced international criticism for failing to condemn the military’s abuses against the Rohingya. Ms. Suu Kyi has argued that her civilian government has no oversight of the military, but a recent U.N. report faulted her for not publicly opposing the crackdown, which killed 10,000 Rohingya and forced more than 700,000 into Bangladesh. Jailed
In the case of the reporters, Ms. Suu Kyi’s decision on whether to swiftly issue an amnesty is being watched as a sign of whether she remains committed to democratic principles.
She faces implicit military pressure not to release the duo, given that the police, who are under the military’s control, brought the case to civilian prosecutors. But Aaron Connelly, director of the Lowy Institute’s Southeast Asia Project, said the decision is her government’s alone, as the military firmly backs the constitution, which explicitly gives the civilian government the power to grant amnesty to prisoners.