Suu Kyi hit with new corruption charge

Myanmar’s junta laid a new charge of corruption against Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday, bringing the total number of corruption cases against the ousted state counsellor to six.

According to state media reports, the latest charge is related to the rental of a helicopter by Dr. Win Myat Aye, the former minister for social welfare, relief and resettlement.

The helicopter, which was rented for disaster management purposes, was allegedly improperly used with the approval of Suu Kyi and deposed President Win Myint, who has also been charged in connection with the case. 

An investigation by the junta’s Anti-Corruption Commission found that Win Myat Aye used the helicopter for just 84.95 hours between 2019 and 2021, but paid for a total of 720 flight hours, resulting in a loss of more than $3.5m in funds from the country’s National Disaster Management Committee.

He also allegedly failed to follow official procedures for the purchase of a helicopter, resulting in a further loss of 23 billion kyat ($12.9m), state media reported. 

Win Myat Aye was originally charged in August under Section 55 of the Anti-Corruption Law, but Suu Kyi and Win Myint were not formally included in the case until Tuesday. 

Both ousted leaders were charged under the same law at the Phayagon Myoma police station in Naypyitaw, where the charge against Win Myat Aye was also filed. All three face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

“They actually tried to file that charge at the Mandalay regional court of justice last week. I think they just moved it to Naypyitaw,” said a source close to the court in Naypyitaw where Suu Kyi is being tried.

The regime did not release any details about the company contracted to provide the helicopter, but according to local media reports, the former National League for Democracy (NLD) government bought an AW-139, XY-AFT helicopter from an Italian company called Leonardo S.P.A. in 2019.

Suu Kyi now faces a total of 12 charges, half of them accusing her of various abuses of power during her five-year tenure as leader of Myanmar’s elected NLD government.

Four of the corruption charges are related to land ownership issues at the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, a charity founded by Suu Kyi in honour of her mother, while a fifth is based on allegations made by the former chief minister of Yangon Region that she accepted massive bribes in exchange for business favours.

Suu Kyi has also been accused of illegally importing walkie talkies, breaking Covid-19 regulations, and incitement. If convicted on all charges, she could be sentenced to up to 116 years in prison.

Last month, the junta formally accused Suu Kyi, Win Myint and 14 other officials of committing electoral fraud during the 2020 election, which the NLD won in a landslide.  

This is the first time that Win Myint has faced corruption charges since he and other civilian leaders were taken into custody by the military on February 1.

The charges against the deposed leaders are widely regarded as baseless. 

“This is all being done according to the military’s political agenda,” said the court source who spoke to Myanmar Now about the latest charge. 

“This was not a case done according to the law. All of these cases just depend on the country’s political changes. This contributes nothing to the rule of law,” the source added.

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