Cablegate: Aung San Suu Kyi Avoids Jail, Calls Regime's

Published: Mon 24 Feb 2003 12:40 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (SBU) Summary: Aung San Suu Kyi was found guilty of
wrongful restraint February 21 in a civil suit brought by
her cousin. The NLD Chairman says the court's judgment was
"definitely politically motivated," and her lawyer outlined
several procedural irregularities. Daw Suu reportedly
objected to the judgment and the process and was prepared to
go to jail for a week rather than admit guilt and pay a
nominal fine. As two thousand people crowded around the
courthouse, the government backed off, issuing a "suspension
of judgment" decree, handing Aung San Suu Kyi another
principled victory, for the time being at least. End
2. (SBU) The Incident
On May 8, 2002, two days after Aung San Suu Kyi was released
from house arrest, her maternal cousin, Soe Aung, appeared
on her housing compound and accosted her in front of the NLD
leadership. He punched her and was banished from the
compound. She sued him for "outraging the modesty of a
woman" and he counter-sued her for wrongful restraint. The
cousin had once lived in a small building on the family
compound, and apparently wanted to move back in.
3. (SBU) "Politically Motivated"
At a February 21 press conference at NLD HQ, Aung San Suu
Kyi's lawyer and the assembled party leadership detailed the
events of the day. Both ASSK and her cousin were found
guilty and received small fines or short jail terms. ASSK
objected to the process and judgment, refusing to pay the
small fine and claiming she would go to jail for the seven
days if necessary. Her lawyer detailed some legal
irregularities. When a U.S. reporter asked if the NLD
leadership thought the case was politically motivated, the
NLD Chairman answered, "It definitely was politically
4. (SBU) How's That?
Soe Aung is said to have been put up to this by the regime.
Local political analysts tell us a number of ASSK's family
members have been approached by the SPDC and encouraged to
bring lawsuits against her. Entangling her in tawdry civil
litigation with family members would diminish her status of
international icon. We know of at least one other suit
filed against her by a family member. One also wonders how
Soe Aung could have gotten access to her compound, isolated
as it is by tight police checkpoints.
5. (SBU) So What?
What was perhaps a regime-supported smear effort has
backfired, as ASSK once again stood by her principles and
called the government's bluff. Given the tension in the
city arising from the ongoing banking crisis, the
authorities perhaps sensed that this event could have
sparked trouble. The regime has backed down for now, but we
note the judgment was only suspended, not overturned.
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