Aung San Suu Kyi’s hearing starts a day early, without her lawyer’s knowledge 

The hearing in the cases against Myanmar’s civilian leaders Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Myint, who were ousted in a military coup two weeks ago, began on Tuesday afternoon via video link without the knowledge of a lawyer representing Suu Kyi.

A judge had told their lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, on Monday that the hearing had been delayed until Wednesday. He has been barred from seeing either leader since their arrests on February 1, meaning Suu Kyi has been unable to sign documents granting him power of attorney. 

Suu Kyi was hit with a new charge on Tuesday under the Natural Disaster Management Law for breaching regulations aimed at curbing Covid-19 while campaigning in last year’s election – the same charge filed against president Win Myint two weeks ago. 

She has already been accused of importing walkie-talkies in violation of the Export and Import Law, meaning she now faces two charges that each carry three-year sentences.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won a landslide victory in November, securing over 80% of seats across both houses of parliament. The military has justified its coup by claiming, without evidence, to have found over 10 million cases of potential voter fraud.

Judge Nan Aye Mya Thiri told reporters outside the Zabuthiri Township Court in Naypyitaw that police decided to bring the case to court today even though the two were remanded until Wednesday.

Both defendants seemed to be in good health during the video conference, she added. 

The police submitted the names of nine witnesses for each of the three charges against the two leaders, she said. That means a total of up to 27 witnesses, although it’s possible the same person may be called for more than one charge.  

The court will make its rulings “independently,” Nan Aye Mya Thiri said. 

Khin Maung Zaw said the judge told him Suu Kyi had given the NLD’s central executive committee permission to assign her a lawyer while Win Myint, who worked as a lawyer before he became president, said he would represent himself. 

The NLD had already assigned him to represent Suu Kyi, he added, and he has been trying to meet with her so that she could sign documents granting him power of attorney. He said he would also seek help from other legal experts in building Suu Kyi’s defense. 

The next hearing for both Suu Kyi and Win Myint is scheduled for March 1.

Around the same time as the hearing, the self-declared State Administrative Council held a press conference in Naypyitaw, its first since coup leader Min Aung Hlaing seized power. 

Many local journalists said they were boycotting the press conference because they did not recognise Min Aung Hlaing’s regime. The state-owned MRTV broadcast it live. 

The press conference was led by military spokesperson Brig. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, who previously worked under the Tatmadaw’s True News Information Team but has now been appointed deputy information minister by Min Aung Hlaing.

Appearing before the press in civilian clothes for the first time, he said Suu Kyi and Win Myint are being kept in “safe places” and are in good health. The new ruling council would not do anything that is not in line with existing laws, he added. 

In a separate case, the military has been investigating the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, a charity founded by Suu Kyi dedicated to her mother. The foundation’s two executive members are being interrogated by the Bureau of Special Investigation, according to sources close to the foundation. 

One source speculated that the military is probing Suu Kyi’s foundation because it wants to establish grounds to hit Suu Kyi with more serious charges. 

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