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What's next for Myanmar's former leader


Today, a military court in Myanmar convicted former leader Aung San Suu Kyi of corruption, coming nearly two years after the military coup that deposed her popularly elected government. NPR's Michael Sullivan reports.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN, BYLINE: Today's verdicts were never in doubt, just like the ones that came before them. Suu Kyi had already been convicted on 14 other charges of corruption, violating the Official Secrets Act and illegally importing walkie-talkies. She's denied all of the charges, which her supporters and most analysts call politically motivated - aimed at keeping the 77-year-old out of politics for good.

PHIL ROBERTSON: This is part of a larger plan by the Burmese military junta to make sure that she never sees the light of day again.

SULLIVAN: Phil Robertson is deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch.

ROBERTSON: She is truly and completely sidelined from the larger Burmese political situation, and it's going to stay that way until the Burmese military junta either changes its mind - which is not likely - or the revolutionary forces win.

SULLIVAN: That's a reference to the brutal conflict playing out all over the country between the military and a resistance that began shortly after the coup that deposed the Suu Kyi-led government - a conflict that's now eclipsed Suu Kyi's show trials. Richard Horsey is senior Myanmar analyst for the International Crisis Group.

RICHARD HORSEY: People are not focused on Aung San Suu Kyi. They're focused on the battles that they're fighting on the streets and in the rural areas. And while she remains a potent political force and extremely popular, she isn't determining the day-to-day dynamics of the resistance.

SULLIVAN: That resistance, he says, is being led by other, much younger leaders on the ground and has moved far beyond Aung San Suu Kyi's traditional position of nonviolent resistance, in large part because of the military's ongoing violence against its own people. Since the coup, nearly 2,700 civilians have been killed, according to a prominent rights group, with millions more internally displaced. As for Suu Kyi, one of her lawyers, who asked not to be named - he's not authorized to speak to the media - says she may yet avoid ending her days in prison.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: (Non-English language spoken).

SULLIVAN: He says the military may eventually decide to shorten her sentence, or place her under house arrest instead of prison, in an effort to appease the international community. House arrest is something the Nobel Peace Prize winner knows well, having spent 15 years under house arrest under a previous military government. Michael Sullivan, NPR News, Chiang Rai.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michael Sullivan is NPR's Senior Asia Correspondent. He moved to Hanoi to open NPR's Southeast Asia Bureau in 2003. Before that, he spent six years as NPR's South Asia correspondent based in but seldom seen in New Delhi.

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