AUNG San Suu Kyi last week delivered her own verdict on her trial for breaking her house arrest conditions: “The verdict will constitute a judgement on the whole of legal justice and the constitutional system in our country.” She was absolutely right. Yesterday's official verdict by the court that has tried her was meaningless in any sense other than the Burmese military regime's determination to keep Suu Kyi out of sight until after next year's elections. She was found guilty on a trumped-up charge, sentenced to three years hard labour which was immediately reduced by Senior General Than Shwe to 18 months house arrest in a cynical display of leniency.

This stage-managed trial was more Grand Guignol than farce though it had elements of each. Once again the world audience was left to wonder at the dignity, courage and resilience of this woman of 64, daughter of the man who led Burma to independence in 1948 and who herself won an overwhelming election victory for her National League for Democracy in 1990 only to see the military regime take over instead. She has spent 14 of the last 20 years in detention of one kind or another.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General has been a strong advocate of Suu Kyi's release and has visited Burma to plead for her. But the Burmese generals are implacable and without humanity. Words are wasted on them.


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