Myanmar Junta Moves Aung San Suu Kyi to House Arrest

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Myanmar Junta Moves Aung San Suu Kyi to House Arrest

A junta spokesperson said that the 78-year-old leader was relocated due to the intense heat in Myanmar’s central plain.

Myanmar Junta Moves Aung San Suu Kyi to House Arrest
Credit: Photo 97773635 © Arvinshen |

Myanmar’s military junta says that it has moved Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s former leader, from prison to house arrest, due to concerns about the hot weather in Myanmar’s central plain.

In comments given to various media outlets, junta spokesperson Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun said that two leaders were removed from their prisons to relieve them from the intense dry season heat. He did not divulge their new location.

Zaw Min Tun’s comments came after local media outlets reported that the 78-year-old leader and Win Myint, 72, had been moved from prison to house arrest. According to one report from Eleven Media cited by Radio Free Asia (RFA), Aung San Suu Kyi was transferred under tight security in the capital Naypyidaw, while former President Win Myint was moved to house arrest from Taungoo Prison in Bago Region, around 120 kilometers south of the capital. Mizzima cited a source as saying that Aung San Suu Kyi was released to her home in Myananbonthar Street, in Naypyidaw’s Zebuthiri Township, yesterday morning.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been in custody since the morning of February 1, 2021, when the military overthrew her government and seized power. Since then she has been charged with an array of mostly extremely far-fetched criminal charges, including sedition, corruption, violating coronavirus restrictions, and illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, among others. After initially keeping her under house arrest at her home in Myananbonthar Street, the junta shifted Aung San Suu Kyi to solitary confinement in Naypyidaw Prison in June 2022.

Last July, Burmese media reports suggested that Aung San Suu Kyi had been transferred from prison to a government building in Naypyidaw, though her whereabouts remain unconfirmed and her legal team says they have not seen her since a meeting at Naypyidaw Prison in December 2022. Australian economist Sean Turnell, an advisor to Aung San Suu Kyi’s government who was arrested during the coup, told Radio Free Asia that he had seen no evidence to suggest that she had been moved from prison to house arrest. He said, “to the best of my knowledge, she is where I left her back in November of 2022, which is inside the main Naypyidaw Prison.”

In a statement late yesterday, a representative of the National Unity Government (NUG) based in the Czech Republic confirmed the relocation of Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Myint, but said that it was important to regard the junta’s explanation of the move “with skepticism.” It added that the move had come after resistance forces’ politically significant drone attacks on Naypyidaw earlier this month.

“There is a real risk that the junta will strategically position the State Counselor and the president at key military installations, thereby exposing them to potential targeting by the revolutionary forces,” the NUG statement added.

While the military is clearly not above such a cynical move, there are good reasons for it to worry genuinely about the state of Aung San Suu Kyi’s health, which has reportedly been in decline for some time. While the central political importance of the Nobel laureate has receded since the coup, she retains a totemic status among many opponents of the military junta.

The military has responded to this by sealing her away at the center of the sprawling capital and using bogus charges to consign her to a forced early retirement. At the same time, given its recent battlefield reversals, the junta cannot afford to let Aung San Suu Kyi’s health get too much worse. If there were one thing that might finally align international opinion with the sentiments of the broad mass of the Myanmar population, it would be the death of the revered leader in custody.