Myanmar Junta Hits Aung San Suu Kyi With Two New Charges

Ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi faced two additional charges on Monday during a hearing conducted by videolink a day after the bloodiest crackdown on anti-coup protesters killed at least 18 people across the country.

The hearing took place a month after Suu Kyi was detained during the Feb. 1 power grab that annulled the landslide general election victory of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party last year.

The first of the new charges, bringing the total to four since her arrest, fell under Section 505b of the criminal code, which makes it illegal to issue “any statement, rumour or report” likely to induce members of the public to “commit an offence against the state”. It is punishable by up to two years in prison, a fine, or both.

The second is for an alleged violation of the Telecommunication Law’s Section 67 for possessing or using any restricted communication equipment that requires a license. It carries a maximum one-year prison term. 

The 75-year-old already stands accused of illegally importing walkie-talkies in violation of the Export and Import Law, and of breaching the Natural Disaster Management Law for defying regulations aimed at curbing Covid-19 while campaigning in the election—the same charge filed against detained ally President Win Myint.

The telecommunications charge is believed to be derived from the allegations over walkie-talkies which the military junta claimed were found when they searched her house on Feb. 1.

Deposed President Win Myint was also accused of violating 505b during the Monday hearing, which was not broadcast to the public.

Attorney Min Min Soe, a member of Suu Kyi’s legal team, said she seemed to be in good health as she appeared via video link.

“She said at the hearing that she wanted to meet with her lawyer. The judge told her that he is working on it,” lawyer Min Min Soe told Myanmar Now. 

The lawyer added that they had no access to the hearing for Win Myint and that the video link was closed after Suu Kyi’s brief appearance. Lawyers have not been able to meet with either of them since they were detained in pre-dawn raids at the start of the coup.

The next hearings are scheduled for Mar. 15.  A number of ousted chief ministers in Magway, Rakhine and Mandalay who are also central executive members of the NLD have been charged with 505b, more commonly known as incitement.

It remains unclear how Suu Kyi could have incited members of the public to commit an offense without being able to communicate with the public.

The new charges were announced as Myanmar protesters returned to the streets a day after at least 18 people were killed in a crackdown by security forces in various cities, according to a tally by the United Nations human rights office.

Suu Kyi was taken away from her home in Naypyitaw more than a week ago to an undisclosed location, according to NLD sources.

The military had been keeping Suu Kyi at the house in Zabuthiri township since it detained her and several other top government figures in the Feb. 1 takeover. 

“We don’t know where she’s being kept anymore,” a senior NLD source said on condition of anonymity. 

Suu Kyi spent a combined 15 years under house arrest until being released in 2010. She won a parliamentary seat in a 2012 by-election before leading the NLD to two overwhelming election victories in 2015 and 2020. 

On Friday the chair of the new military-appointed Union Election Commission, Thein Soe, officially annulled the results of the 2020 poll during a meeting with political parties in Naypyitaw. 

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