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Myanmar junta chief says military open to negotiations with Suu Kyi after her trial

Myanmar's military chief said Friday the junta is open to negotiations with ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi after her trials in a junta-run court have concluded. ©AFP

Yangon (AFP) - Myanmar's military chief said Friday the junta is open to negotiations with ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to end the crisis sparked by its coup after her trials in a junta-run court have concluded.

Suu Kyi, 77, has been detained since the generals toppled her government in a coup on February 1 last year and plunged the Southeast Asian nation into chaos.

She has been jailed for 17 years for a clutch of charges and faces decades more in prison if convicted on a raft of other charges she is battling in a closed junta court. 

"After the legal processes against her according to the law are finished we are going to consider (negotiations) based on her response," junta chief Min Aung Hlaing said in a statement.

Journalists have been barred from the proceedings, her lawyers gagged from speaking to the media, and the junta has given no indication of when her trials might conclude.

The military regime's cases against Suu Kyi were proceeding according to law, the junta chief said.

He also cited the case of South Korean president Park Geun-hye who "was also sentenced according to the law" for corruption in 2018.

Park was later pardoned and released.

Other charges against Suu Kyi include seven counts of corruption, breaking electoral law and breaching the colonial-era official secrets law -- for which she is co-accused with detained Australian economist Sean Turnell.

Both face up to 15 years in jail if found guilty on that charge.

There was enough evidence against Turnell for a "serious conviction," Min Aung Hlaing said.

The junta could be lenient if the Australian government "acted positively", he said, without providing details.

In July a junta spokesman told AFP it was "not impossible" that the regime would enter into dialogue with Suu Kyi to resolve the turmoil sparked by the military's power-grab last year.

Stalled diplomacy

Suu Kyi remains a revered figure locally for her courageous opposition to a previous junta, despite her international reputation suffering after governing in a power-sharing deal with the generals when she won elections in 2015. 

But many of those currently embroiled in fighting with the military have said the movement must go further than what the Nobel laureate led decades ago. 

Dissidents today -- including so-called "People's Defence Forces" that have sprung up to fight junta forces -- say the goal now is to permanently root out military dominance from the country's politics and economy.

Diplomatic efforts by the 10-country bloc Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) -- of which Myanmar is a member -- have so far failed to halt the bloodshed.

Last year, the bloc agreed on a "five-point consensus", which calls for a cessation of violence and constructive dialogue, but the junta has largely ignored it. 

This week UN special envoy Noeleen Heyzer made her first trip to the country since being appointed last year and met Min Aung Hlaing and other top military officials. 

But she was denied a meeting with Suu Kyi, and rights groups said they had little optimism her visit would persuade the military to end its bloody crackdown and engage in dialogue with opponents of its coup.

More than 2,200 people have been killed and over 15,000 arrested in the military's crackdown on dissent since it seized power, according to a local monitoring group. 

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