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Myanmar’s Suu Kyi appears before court without warning
InternationalFeb 18. 2021
By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg
The first court hearing of ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi since the Feb. 1 coup began earlier than scheduled and without her lawyer present, further signaling the military’s intention to end her political career.
Speaking by phone on Wednesday, her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said that Suu Kyi appeared in front of the court via video link without representation. The hearing had earlier been scheduled for Wednesday. He said the court has yet to recognize him as her attorney and he has been barred from seeing her since she was detained by the military.
Already facing as many as three years in prison for allegedly possessing illegally imported walkie-talkies, the police filed an additional charge against Suu Kyi on Tuesday under the Natural Disaster Management Law, a conviction for which carries the same penalty. Under that charge, she is accused of violating covid-19 restrictions while campaigning in last year’s election, which her National League for Democracy won in a landslide.
Detained former President Win Myint, who also appeared virtually in court on Tuesday, faces the same charge but has thus far refused legal representation, Khin Maung Zaw said.
“We will try our best to win this case as our leaders are the lifeblood of the state,” he said.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, said in a statement that he was “terrified” of the “potential for violence on a greater scale” Wednesday with several planned protests amid reports of troops converging in Yangon.
“I am issuing an urgent call on all governments, individuals and entities that may have influence on Myanmar military authorities to use that influence to convince the junta that rallies planned for Wednesday must be allowed to proceed without detentions or violence,” he said in the statement.
Despite the concern, protesters numbering in the hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Yangon Wednesday as drivers used vehicles to block streets in defiance of the military.
Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun, the lead spokesman for the military-run State Administration Council, said Tuesday during the first briefing since the coup that Suu Kyi was in “good health,” adding that authorities were also investigating money laundering at a foundation she runs. The next hearing for Suu Kyi and Win Myint is scheduled for March 1.
Myanmar’s junta shut down the internet for a third straight night Tuesday as part of efforts to stem nationwide protests that have ballooned across the country, according to a Twitter post by monitoring service NetBlocks. Military leaders have struggled to gain control of the streets since ousting the government led by Suu Kyi. She has urged the country’s 55 million people to oppose the army’s move, calling it “an attempt to bring the nation back under the military dictatorship.”
Suu Kyi and other political leaders are among more than 400 people detained since the coup, a number that keeps rising by the day. During the Tuesday briefing, the junta again defended its move to oust the civilian government in the face of nationwide protests, dismissing the impact of U.S. sanctions while showing no signs of a compromise with demonstrators.
“To ensure democracy and prosperity, people should cooperate with us without being emotional,” Zaw Min Tun said.