Myanmar Junta Hits Suu Kyi With Graft Charges

A protester carries a large portrait of detained Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon on February 20, 2021.
YE AUNG THU / AFP

 

 

The Myanmar junta has hit deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi with corruption charges over claims she accepted illegal payments of gold and more than half a million dollars in cash, state media reported Thursday.

The country has been in turmoil since the generals ousted Suu Kyi on February 1, with more than 850 civilians killed in a brutal crackdown by security forces on near-daily protests against the coup.

The 75-year-old Nobel laureate, who has been in custody since the putsch, is facing a raft of wide-ranging criminal charges, including sedition and breaching a colonial-era secrecy law.

The latest charges relate to allegations by the former Yangon region chief minister that Suu Kyi illegally accepted $600,000 in cash from him along with around 11 kilograms of gold.

The Anti-Corruption Commission found evidence that Suu Kyi had committed “corruption using her rank”, according to the Global New Light of Myanmar, a state-run newspaper.

“So she was charged under Anti-Corruption Law section 55.”

She is also accused of abusing her authority when renting two areas of land for her charitable foundation.

After weeks of legal wrangling, two of Suu Kyi’s trials are due to start in earnest next week, hearing evidence from witnesses.

In Naypyidaw, the remote capital purpose-built by the previous military regime, her trial on charges of violating restrictions during last year’s election campaign and possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies will start on Monday.

A separate case is scheduled to start on June 15, where she is charged with sedition alongside ousted president Win Myint and another senior member of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

– Charges ‘absurd’ –
Her lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, dismissed the corruption charges as “absurd”.

“There is an undeniable political background to keep her out of the scene of the country and to smear her prestige,” he told AFP, saying she could face long prison terms on the secrecy and corruption charges.

“That’s one of the reasons to charge her — to keep her out of the scene.”

Suu Kyi spent more than 15 years under house arrest during the previous military rule before her 2010 release.

Her international stature diminished following a wave of military violence targeting Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s marginalised Muslim Rohingya community, but the coup has returned Suu Kyi to the role of cloistered democracy icon.

The junta has previously said it would hold fresh elections within two years but has also threatened to dissolve the NLD.

“That election — I cannot say if it will materialise or not, and maybe NLD will not be able to compete,” Khin Maung Zaw told AFP.

“But for Aung San Suu Kyi, if she is convicted under these charges she will not be allowed to compete.”

Richard Horsey, senior advisor on Myanmar to the International Crisis Group, told AFP that smearing opponents with corruption was a longstanding tactic of the military.

“Their ludicrous charges of illegal walkie-talkie use and Covid violations will allow them to lock Aung San Suu Kyi away, but corruption charges are a way to try and besmirch her reputation,” he said.

Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing has justified his power grab by citing alleged electoral fraud in the November poll, which Suu Kyi’s NLD won in a landslide.

Elsewhere in Myanmar on Thursday, twelve people were killed when a military plane carrying a senior monk and several donors to a religious event crashed in a central region of the country.

Two others on board — a boy and a sergeant from the plane’s crew — survived the crash and were taken to a military hospital, a junta spokesperson said.

Aung San Suu Kyi To Appear In Court May 24, Says Lawyer

FILES) In this file photo taken on March 7, 2021 Myanmar migrants in Thailand hold up pictures of detained Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi at a protest against the military coup in their home country, in front of the United Nations ESCAP building in Bangkok. 
Mladen ANTONOV / AFP

 

A judge on Monday ordered Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi to appear in person in court for the first time on May 24, her lawyer said, after weeks of delays in her case.

The Nobel laureate has not been publicly seen since she was detained in a February 1 coup, when the military ousted her from power and re-installed its rule.

She was subsequently hit with a series of charges, and her legal team has faced an uphill battle to get a private audience with their client.

Multiple court hearings in the capital Naypyidaw have seen Suu Kyi — who attended via video conferencing from under house arrest — express frustration at the pace of the proceedings.

During the latest hearing Monday, a judge ordered for her cases to be heard with her present in a special courtroom near her residence.

“She will appear in person in court on May 24,” lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told AFP.

However, he cautioned that the outstanding issue of not being able to meet privately with her still remains.

“The problem is not solved yet because the police did not answer on whether they can arrange our meeting,” he said, adding that private counsel is “the right of the defendant”.

The 75-year-old former leader has been charged six times since her arrest.

The charges include flouting coronavirus restrictions during last year’s election campaign and possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies.

The most serious charge alleges that she violated the country’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act — a case that is pending in a court in commercial hub Yangon.

The junta has also accused her of corruption — though no charges have been filed — alleging that she received bribes of gold bars and cash.

The junta has continuously justified her arrest and the coup as a way to defend democracy, alleging electoral fraud by her National League for Democracy Party, which swept November’s elections in a landslide.

Coupmaker Min Aung Hlaing, the army’s commander-in-chief, is now leading the junta, and holds legislative, executive and judicial powers in Myanmar.

Mass protests have continued since the coup, with hundreds of thousands defying junta rule to demand a return to democracy and the release of Suu Kyi.

They have been met with live ammunition from security forces — at least 780 civilians have been killed in brutal crackdowns, said a local monitoring group.

-AFP

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi To Face New Criminal Charge

In this file photograph taken on November 3, 2019, Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi looks on as she attends the 10th ASEAN-UN Summit in Bangkok, on the sidelines of the 35th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit. Former democracy icon Aung San
Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP

 

Myanmar’s ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was hit with a fresh criminal charge on Monday, as the junta’s tough crackdown on dissent rolls on.

The 75-year-old Nobel laureate has not been seen in public since being detained in the early hours of February 1 as the military deposed her government and seized power.

The generals have used increasingly brutal methods to try to quell a growing protest movement against their rule, while Suu Kyi faces a raft of criminal charges that could see her barred for life from office.

“Amay Suu has been charged again under section 25 of the natural disaster management law,” lawyer Min Min Soe told AFP after a court hearing in the capital Naypyidaw, where Suu Kyi appeared by video link.

“She has been charged in six cases altogether — five charges in Naypyidaw and one in Yangon.”

The most serious charge Suu Kyi faces falls under Myanmar’s official secrets laws.

Min Min Soe said Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest in Naypyidaw, appeared in good health but it is not clear if she has any idea of the turmoil that has unfolded in Myanmar over the past two months.

Near-daily protests seeking her release and the restoration of democracy have been met with rubber bullets, live rounds and even grenades by the security forces.

More than 700 civilians have been killed in the space of just 70 days since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group, which says more than 3,000 have been arrested.

In one of the bloodiest days of the unrest so far, on Friday more than 80 protesters were killed by security forces in the southern city of Bago.

Witnesses described seeing dead bodies piled up and then loaded into army trucks and driven away, while the UN said many of the wounded had been denied medical treatment.

Despite the dangers, protesters continue to rally and Monday — the eve of Myanmar’s Buddhist new year celebrations — saw demonstrations in the second biggest city Mandalay as well as Kalay, in the north.

In Yangon, a number of city transport buses were torched overnight.

The bloody crackdown has brought widespread international condemnation and calls for restraint — as well as sanctions from some countries on the Myanmar armed forces and their extensive business interests.

But diplomatic bickering has hampered more concerted action, with the EU’s top diplomat blaming Moscow and Beijing for blocking tough measures such as a UN arms embargo.

-AFP

Suu Kyi Court Hearing Postponed Over Myanmar Internet Outage

 


Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP

 

A block on mobile data networks across Myanmar on Monday scuppered a scheduled video court appearance by ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as protesters returned to the streets after the bloodiest day since the military coup six weeks ago.

At least 44 protesters were killed Sunday as security forces cracked down on pro-democracy demonstrations, taking the death toll since the coup to more than 120, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) monitoring group.

Myanmar has been in uproar since the putsch, with daily protests demanding a restoration of democracy despite the junta’s increasingly forceful attempts to quell dissent.

The court hearing for Suu Kyi — who spent more than 15 years under house arrest during previous military rule — was scheduled for 10 am (0330 GMT) in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw, but it was postponed until March 24, her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told AFP.

“There’s no court hearing because there’s no internet and the hearing is conducted by video conference… We cannot do video,” he said.

Myanmar authorities have throttled the internet every night for several weeks, normally restoring services in the morning, but monitoring service Netblocks said mobile data networks were kept offline Monday.

Suu Kyi faces at least four charges: possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies, violating coronavirus restrictions, breaching telecommunications laws, and intent to cause public unrest.

Military authorities have also accused her of accepting illegal payments of $600,000 in cash as well as a large quantity of gold — allegations her lawyer says are “groundless”.

Khin Maung Zaw had previously complained he was not allowed to meet Suu Kyi, who has been in custody since the coup, and on Monday said police have appointed two junior lawyers on his team to have the power of attorney.

“The police have no right to decide who represents the defendants,” he said, adding that the whole situation is “strange” — from the lack of Wi-Fi in the court to the appointment of junior lawyers.

– Martial law –

Suu Kyi’s postponed hearing came a day after violent clashes between security forces and protesters, and the torching of several Chinese-owned factories in a textile-producing district of commercial hub Yangon as many protesters believe Beijing is supportive of the coup.

The AAPP on Monday said six more deaths had been confirmed to add to an overnight toll of 38, making Sunday the deadliest single day since the military seized power.

Six Yangon townships were under martial law by morning — anyone arrested there faces trial by a military tribunal rather than civilian courts, with sentences ranging from three years’ hard labour to execution.

But protesters were undeterred Monday, with local media publishing images showing crowds gathering in Karen state and a sit-in protest in Myanmar’s second-largest city Mandalay.

State-run television confirmed on Monday that a police officer was shot dead in the city of Bago, 60 kilometres (37 miles) northeast of Yangon, during a protest.

The Chinese embassy in Myanmar issued a statement condemning the actions of “destroyers” after the violence in Yangon’s garment-producing townships, urging the police to “guarantee the security” of Chinese businesses.

Taiwan, meanwhile, advised its companies in Myanmar to fly the island’s flag to avoid being targeted.

– ‘Junta leaders don’t belong in power’ –

International alarm over the bloodshed is growing, but so far Myanmar’s generals have shown no signs of heeding calls for restraint.

Tom Andrews, United Nations special rapporteur on rights in Myanmar, tweeted that he was “heartbroken/outraged” at Sunday’s events.

“Junta leaders don’t belong in power, they belong behind bars,” he wrote.

“Their supply of cash & weapons must be cut now.”

UN envoy for Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener also condemned Sunday’s bloodshed, while the country’s former colonial ruler Britain said it was “appalled” by the use of force “against innocent people”.

Last week, Andrews said there was growing evidence that the junta was committing crimes against humanity — including murder, forced disappearances and torture.

Amnesty International has also accused the Myanmar military of premeditated killings and using battlefield weapons on unarmed protestors.

-AFP

Myanmar Junta Accuses Suu Kyi Of Taking $600,000 In Illegal Payment

 

Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi arrives for a meeting with Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang (not pictured) at the Presidential Palace at the sideline of the World Economic Forum on ASEAN in Hanoi on September 13, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / KHAM

Myanmar’s military junta on Thursday accused detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi of accepting a $600,000 illegal payment and more than 11 kilograms of gold.

“We have learnt Daw Aung San Suu Kyi herself took this $600,000 and seven visses (11.2 kilograms) of gold. The anti-corruption commission is investigating,” the military’s spokesman Zaw Min Tun told reporters in the capital Naypyidaw.

More to follow

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi Hit With Two New Criminal Charges

Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi arrives for a meeting with Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang (not pictured) at the Presidential Palace at the sideline of the World Economic Forum on ASEAN in Hanoi on September 13, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / KHAM

 

 

Ousted Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was hit with two new criminal charges in a court appearance via video link on Monday, one month after a military coup triggered relentless mass protests.

Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since being detained on February 1, and her court appearance came as demonstrators marched across the country defying an escalation of deadly force by the junta.

At least 18 people were killed Sunday as troops and police fired at demonstrators in cities across Myanmar, according to the United Nations, which cited its own credible information.

State broadcaster MRTV said late Monday that more than 1,300 people were arrested and eleven killed on Sunday, adding that security forces have been directed not to use live rounds against protesters.

Suu Kyi, 75, was already facing obscure criminal charges for possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies, as well as violating coronavirus restrictions by staging a campaign event during last year’s election.

She is now also accused of breaching communications laws as well as intent to incite public unrest, her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said.

“We cannot say for sure how many more cases Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will face in this period,” he told reporters in Naypyidaw.

Suu Kyi has reportedly been kept under house arrest in the capital of Naypyidaw, an isolated city purpose-built under Myanmar’s previous junta.

The military has justified its takeover, which ended a decade-long democratic experiment, with unfounded allegations of widespread fraud in last November’s national elections, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won in a landslide.

A committee of deposed lawmakers from her party on Monday said that due to the “atrocities and acts of terrorism of the military the streets and communities across Myanmar have become battlefields.”

– ‘Evil era’ –
Hundreds of thousands of people have marched over the past month opposing the coup.

The military has steadily escalated the force used in trying to contain the uprising, beginning with tear gas and water cannons. Weekend violence saw a major escalation as security forces fired rubber bullets and live rounds.

Protesters however remain defiant.

“I’m here as a frontliner because I don’t want my son to grow up in this evil era,” a student called Eric told AFP, adding he had a 10-month-old baby.

AFP independently confirmed 11 deaths in Sunday’s violence, although there were fears the toll was much higher. There were no reports of deaths on Monday.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group estimates that security forces have killed about 30 people since February 1.

On Monday demonstrators in Yangon used bamboo poles, sofas and tree branches to erect street barricades, while police responded with stun grenades and tear gas.

In one clash broadcast live on Facebook and verified by AFP, unarmed protesters fled after a volley of shots were fired.

It was unclear if the security forces had fired live rounds or rubber bullets.

Several journalists documenting assaults by security forces have also been detained in recent days, including an Associated Press photographer in Yangon.

Two reporters from China’s state-run Xinhua news agency were “hit with rubber bullets while they were covering protest near Myaynigone junction this morning,” a journalist friend of theirs told AFP.

Foreign pressure continued to rise, as Germany and Italy summoned Myanmar’s envoys in their capitals to demand an end to the violent repression.

“Such deadly violence against peaceful demonstrators cannot be justified,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert, voicing “consternation” over the crackdown.

The United States has been one of the junta’s most outspoken critics.

“We condemn the Burmese security forces’ abhorrent violence against the people of Burma & will continue to promote accountability for those responsible,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted Sunday, using the country’s old name.

Southeast Asian foreign ministers are set to discuss the Myanmar crisis at informal online talks hosted by Brunei on Tuesday.

“We hope all sides in Myanmar will exercise utmost restraint and engage in dialogue in order to achieve peaceful resolution of the situation and the return to normalcy for the interests of the Myanmar people,” the Thai foreign ministry said in a statement.

 

Myanmar Protesters Stage Biggest Rallies Since Troop Deployments

Protesters face off with police standing guard on a road during a demonstration against the military coup in Naypyidaw on February 8, 2021. (Photo by STR / AFP)

 

Myanmar’s anti-coup protesters returned to the streets in force on Wednesday, staging the biggest demonstrations since troops fanned out around the country to quell opposition to the new military junta.

Much of the country has been in open revolt since the military deposed Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s government at the start of the month and charged her under an obscure import law.

Tens of thousands rallied in Yangon, some blockading roads with vehicles to stop security forces from moving around the nation’s biggest city.

READ ALSO: South Africa Launches Coronavirus Vaccine Campaign

Police and soldiers were spotted near a key protest junction but appeared to be hanging back, looking on as demonstrators streamed past.

“We have to fight until the end,” Nilar, a 21-year-old student who asked not to use her real name, told AFP.

“We need to show our unity and strength to end military rule. People need to come out on the streets.”

A protester holds up a sign with the images of detained Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi (R) and president Win Myint during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on February 6, 2021. (Photo by YE AUNG THU / AFP)

 

Wednesday’s crowds came in defiance of violent efforts by the regime to bring resistance to heel — including use of tear gas and rubber bullets — following nationwide street protests and a disobedience campaign encouraging civil servants to strike.

Demonstrations over the past two days had been noticeably smaller since troops were deployed around Yangon at the weekend.

But social media platforms had been flooded with calls for a show of force by protesters in the hours before the junta imposed a third consecutive overnight internet blackout.

By noon, there were anti-coup demonstrations across Myanmar, from the remote highland region of Chin state to a small town in the Irrawaddy delta where parading protesters hoisted Suu Kyi posters.

Right outside the administrative capital Naypyidaw, tens of thousands of people from different sectors — including engineers, doctors and teachers — marched through the logging town of Pyinmana carrying signs saying “Help Myanmar”.

UN special rapporteur Tom Andrews warned that soldiers going into Yangon, as had been reported, could lead to the situation there spiralling out of control.

“We could be on the precipice of the military committing even greater crimes against the people of Myanmar,” he said.

One young woman remained in a critical condition in Naypyidaw after being shot in the head last week.

Scores of well-wishers gathered Wednesday at the site where she was shot to hold a prayer session, carrying posters of her.

The military said a police officer had died in Mandalay after a confrontation with protesters on Sunday, adding in a statement: “Those who committed lawless action on the police officer will be dealt with as necessary.”

– New charge for Suu Kyi –
The military justified its power seizure by alleging widespread voter fraud in November elections won by Suu Kyi’s party in a landslide.

After her detention in a dawn raid on February 1, Suu Kyi was charged with possessing unregistered walkie-talkies found in her home.

 

This file photo taken on October 25, 2020 shows supporters of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party taking part in an election campaign event with a portrait of Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon. (Photo by Sai Aung Main / AFP)

 

Her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told AFP on Tuesday she was also charged with violating the country’s disaster management law. Further details of that charge have not been made public.

The disaster management law has also been used against deposed president Win Myint for an election campaign event that the junta claims broke coronavirus restrictions.

Her lawyer added that Suu Kyi and Win Myint, both of whom he has yet to have any contact with, were expected to appear via video link during a March 1 trial.

– ‘Not what China wants to see’ –
More than 450 people have been arrested since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group.

Western powers and the United Nations have repeatedly condemned the leaders of Myanmar’s new military administration, which insists it took power lawfully.

China had initially not criticised the coup, which Chinese state media described as a “cabinet reshuffle”.

However, Beijing’s ambassador to Myanmar said Tuesday that the current situation in the country was “absolutely not what China wants to see”.

AFP

Aung San Suu Kyi ‘In Good Health’: Military Junta

This file photo taken on October 25, 2020 shows supporters of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party taking part in an election campaign event with a portrait of Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon. (Photo by Sai Aung Main / AFP)

 

Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi is at a “safer place” and “in good health”, according to military spokesman Zaw Min Tun.

“It’s not like they were arrested — they are staying at their houses,” the general, who became the country’s vice information minister after the coup, said during a press conference Tuesday.

“We are keeping Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and (president) U Win Myint at a safer place for their security. They are in good health.”

Suu Kyi’s lawyer and her National League for Democracy party have said they have not been able to make direct contact with her, though they believe she is under house arrest in her Naypyidaw residence.

Myanmar: Deposed Aung San Suu Kyi To Appear In Court

 

In this file photograph taken on November 3, 2019, Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi looks on as she attends the 10th ASEAN-UN Summit in Bangkok, on the sidelines of the 35th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit. 
Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP

 

Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi will appear in court via video conference this week over charges brought against her by the new military junta, her lawyer said Monday.

Army chief General Min Aung Hlaing has justified the February 1 coup by alleging widespread voter fraud in November’s elections, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party swept.

Two days after the putsch, the 75-year-old Nobel laureate was hit with the unusual charge of violating Myanmar’s import and export law, after a search of her house found walkie-talkies.

President Win Myint — who, like Suu Kyi, was detained in a dawn raid on February 1 — was charged with violating coronavirus restrictions when he took part in a campaign event last September that drew hundreds.

Both are expected to be questioned on Tuesday and Wednesday, said lawyer Khin Maung Zaw outside a court in Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s capital, after a meeting with a judge.

“When they are brought to the court on both February 16 and 17, they will be questioned via video-conferencing,” he said.

Neither has been publicly seen since the coup, though Suu Kyi’s party has heard that she is “in good health”.

Their detention period is set to end on Wednesday, said the lawyer, who has not been allowed to meet his clients yet.

He added that he would also be expected to represent Win Htein, a top NLD executive who was arrested after the coup.

Suu Kyi’s right-hand man and confidante, Win Htein, was interviewed by local media post-coup, calling on the people of Myanmar to “oppose (the coup) as much as they can”.

The 79-year-old NLD stalwart has been charged with defamation, said Khin Maung Zaw.

“We are trying our best to meet with them,” he said, referring to the trio.

Since the coup, about 400 people have been detained, according to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners monitoring group.

While many arrested were political supporters of Suu Kyi, authorities are also stepping up detentions of civilians taking part in nationwide protests against the military junta.

Security forces last week staged a late-night raid of the NLD headquarters in Yangon, confiscating computer devices, cutting server cables, and breaking into the party’s safe.

-AFP

Myanmar’s Protesters Back On The Streets As US Sanctions Coup Leaders

Myanmar’s ousted National League for Democracy party called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other detained leaders on February 2, 2021, describing the coup a day earlier as a “stain” on the military’s history. (Photo by Sai Aung Main / AFP)

 

Huge crowds thronged cities around Myanmar to demand the return of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday for a seventh straight day of protests, after Washington announced sanctions on the generals behind last week’s coup.

A torrent of anger and defiance has brought hundreds of thousands of people out in nationwide rallies demanding the country’s generals relinquish power.

Demonstrations have so far largely been peaceful, but police fired rubber bullets on students while dispersing a sit-down protest in the city of Mawlamyine, arresting at least five.

With teachers, bureaucrats and air traffic controllers among the government employees walking off the job to demand an end to junta rule, the country’s new military leader Min Aung Hlaing told striking workers to return to their offices.

“Those who are away from their duties are requested to return to their duties immediately for the interests of the country and people without focusing on the emotion,” he said, in a speech reported by state media.

The new US sanctions target Min Aung Hlaing and other top generals, after President Joe Biden announced his administration was cutting off the military’s access to $1 billion in funds.

Ahead of another day of mass rallies, state media announced the release of more than 23,000 inmates as part of a prison amnesty.

Friday was a public holiday in Myanmar and mass pardons to empty the country’s overcrowded prison system are common on significant local dates.

More than 260 people have been detained in the days since the coup and about 20 released, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group.

But there was no indication that Suu Kyi or any of her allies were among those set to be freed.

“There is a serious concern that the sudden release… is to clear space for the detention of political prisoners,” the AAPP said.

Massive rallies were back underway in the commercial hub of Yangon on Friday, including a contingent of Premier League fans who put aside their club rivalries to protest the coup.

“I hate the military coup more than Manchester United!” read one sign.

But further east in the port city of Mawlamyine, police moved quickly to clear a sit-in protest by university students, and footage showed officers hauling away several demonstrators.

Widespread dissent

The coup has united disparate strands of society in opposition, with some reports of police officers breaking ranks to join demonstrations alongside celebrities, students and garment workers.

They have called for the junta to respect the results of November’s elections, which saw Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party win in a massive landslide.

The military justified its takeover with claims of widespread voter fraud, though local and international monitors said there were no major issues with the election that could have changed the outcome of the poll.

Min Aung Hlaing’s regime has moved quickly to stack courts and political offices with loyalists after bringing the country’s decade-old democracy to a sudden end.

Live rounds were fired at a rally in Naypyidaw this week, critically wounding two people — including a woman who was shot in the head.

– ‘Emergency’ situation –
Concerns are growing over a draft cybersecurity bill that grants the regime power to order internet blackouts and website bans.

The junta has already ordered telecoms to block Twitter and Facebook and imposed a temporary nationwide internet shutdown over the weekend.

Facebook called the situation in Myanmar “an emergency” and announced it would reduce the reach of content published on pages run by the military.

Suu Kyi has not been seen since she was detained on February 1, the same day a new parliament was due to convene, but NLD officials have said the Nobel laureate was in “good health”.

The military regime has weathered a chorus of condemnation from the US, European Union and former colonial power Britain since it took power.

“The international community will not accept the coup in Myanmar and we will hold those responsible to account,” UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Thursday.

Biden Demands Myanmar Military ‘Relinquish Power’

File photo: A group of Myanmar activists residing in Israel stand with a crossed-out portrait of Myanmar’s armed forces commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing and a portrait of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, while waving flags of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party and of Israel during a protest outside the country’s embassy in the Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv on February 3, 2021. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

 

 

US President Joe Biden called on Myanmar’s generals to “relinquish power” Thursday and demanded they free civilian leaders detained in this week’s coup, as his administration said it was considering sanctions.

Washington has led international condemnation of Monday’s putsch, which saw democratic leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi detained and ignited fears that the military will drag 54 million people back to the decades of junta rule that turned Myanmar into one of Asia’s most impoverished and repressive nations.

“There can be no doubt: in a democracy, force should never seek to overrule the will of the people or attempt to erase the outcome of a credible election,” Biden said from Washington, in his first major foreign policy speech as president.

“The Burmese military should relinquish power they have seized, release the advocates and activists and officials they have detained, lift the restrictions in telecommunications, and refrain from violence.”

Biden spoke hours after his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said the White House is “looking at specific targeted sanctions both on individuals and on entities controlled by the military that enrich the military.” He did not give further details.

READ ALSO: Red Cross To Help 500 Million Get COVID-19 Shots

The US warnings came after Myanmar’s generals ordered internet providers to restrict access to Facebook Thursday, as people flocked to social media to voice opposition and share plans for disobedience.

Facebook-owned apps such as Instagram and WhatsApp were also disrupted.

“We have digital power… so we’ve been using this since day one to oppose the military junta,” said activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi, who is behind a so-called “Civil Disobedience Movement” fanning out across social media platforms.

Telenor, one of the country’s main telecoms providers, confirmed authorities had ordered it to “temporarily block” Facebook access.

The Norwegian-owned company said it had to comply but “does not believe that the request is based on necessity and proportionality, in accordance with international human rights law”.

 

File photo: People clatter cymbals and pans to make noise after calls for protest went out on social media in Yangon on February 3, 2021, as Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi was formally charged on Wednesday two days after she was detained in a military coup. (Photo by STR / AFP) /

 

Facebook confirmed access “is currently disrupted for some people” and urged authorities to restore connectivity.

– Growing anger –
For many in Myanmar, Facebook is the gateway to the internet and a vital way to gather information.

But opposing the military — online or off — is fraught with risk. During junta rule dissent was quashed, with thousands of activists — including Suu Kyi — detained for years on end.

By Thursday, red NLD flags adorned the balconies of dozens of Yangon apartments. Residents have also started clanging pots and cymbals nightly at 8 pm to “drive the military junta out” — a throwback to an old Myanmar tradition of expelling evil spirits.

Health workers this week also pinned red ribbons on their scrubs, with some boycotting work.

A small rally kicked off Thursday in front of a medical university in the northern city of Mandalay, with protesters carrying signs that read: “People’s protest against the military coup!”

Meanwhile, 70 MPs from Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party signed a “pledge to serve the public” while staging their own symbolic parliamentary session in Naypyidaw, local media reported.

The biggest demonstration, however, saw hundreds of supporters of the Tatmadaw, as the military is called, rally in the capital Naypyidaw Thursday.

– ‘Coup must fail’ –
Army chief Min Aung Hlaing’s coup has left the international community scrambling to respond.

On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres vowed to “do everything we can to mobilise all the key actors and international community to put enough pressure on Myanmar to make sure that this coup fails.”

“It’s absolutely unacceptable to reverse the results of the elections and the will of the people,” he told The Washington Post, in his most forceful comments yet.

In this file photograph taken on September 5, 2018, Palestinian school children raise the victory gesture over a UN flag during a protest at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school, financed by US aid, in the Arroub refugee camp near Hebron in the occupied West Bank.(Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP)

 

 

The UN Security Council issued a statement Thursday that expressed “deep concern” and demanded the detainees be freed — but, in a change from an earlier draft, did not condemn the putsch.

Diplomats said veto-wielding China and Russia, Myanmar’s main supporters at the UN, had asked for more time to finesse the council’s response. The Chinese mission said it had contributed to the “improvement” of the text.

Min Aung Hlaing justified his coup by alleging widespread voter fraud during November’s election which Suu Kyi, who has not been seen in public since she was detained, won in a huge landslide with her NLD.

International and local observers — as well as Myanmar’s own election monitor — reported no major issues affecting the integrity of the vote.

Myanmar’s junta-era constitution ensures the military retains considerable influence — but analysts say top generals feared their influence was waning and were dismayed by the enduring appeal of Suu Kyi.

On Wednesday, authorities brought an obscure charge against the 75-year-old to justify her ongoing detention: an offence under Myanmar’s import and export law after authorities found unregistered walkie-talkies at her home.

The United States and Britain have condemned the charges and called for her immediate release.

Myanmar’s military has declared a one-year state of emergency and said it will hold new elections once its allegations are addressed.

AFP

Myanmar Coup: Doctors Strike, Lead Sprouting Civil Disobedience Calls

This combination of pictures created on February 1, 2021 shows (top L) Myanmar's President Win Myint during a visit to New Delhi on February 27, 2020, (top R) Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi at the 35th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Bangkok on November 4, 2019, (bottom L) Myint Swe, then the Yangon division chief minister, delivering a speech in Yangon on February 12, 2013, and (bottom R) Myanmar's Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the Myanmar armed forces, saluting during a ceremony to mark the 71th anniversary of Martyrs' Day in Yangon on July 19, 2018. Soe Than WIN, Prakash SINGH, Lillian SUWANRUMPHA, Ye Aung THU / AFP
This combination of pictures created on February 1, 2021 shows (top L) Myanmar’s President Win Myint during a visit to New Delhi on February 27, 2020, (top R) Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi at the 35th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Bangkok on November 4, 2019, (bottom L) Myint Swe, then the Yangon division chief minister, delivering a speech in Yangon on February 12, 2013, and (bottom R) Myanmar’s Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the Myanmar armed forces, saluting during a ceremony to mark the 71th anniversary of Martyrs’ Day in Yangon on July 19, 2018. Soe Than WIN, Prakash SINGH, Lillian SUWANRUMPHA, Ye Aung THU / AFP

 

Calls for a civil disobedience campaign in Myanmar gathered pace Wednesday as the United States formally declared the military’s takeover a coup and vowed further penalties for the generals behind the putsch.

Myanmar plunged back into direct military rule on Monday when soldiers detained Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian leaders in a series of dawn raids, ending the country’s brief experiment with democracy.

Suu Kyi, who has not been seen in public since, won a huge landslide with her National League for Democracy (NLD) last November but the military — whose favoured parties received a drubbing — declared the polls fraudulent.

With soldiers and armoured cars back on the streets of major cities, the takeover has not been met by any large street protests.

But signs of public anger and plans to resist have begun to flicker.

Doctors and medical staff at multiple hospitals across the country announced Wednesday they were donning red ribbons and walking away from all non-emergency work to protest against the coup.

This file photo taken on October 25, 2020 shows supporters of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party taking part in an election campaign event with a portrait of Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon. Photo by Sai Aung Main / AFP)

 

“Our main goal is to accept only the government we elected,” Aung San Min, head of a 100—bed hospital in Gangaw district, told AFP.

Some medical teams posted pictures on social media wearing red ribbons — NLD’s colours — and raising a three-finger salute, a protest gesture used by democracy activists in neighbouring Thailand, while some have chosen to bypass work altogether.

“My protest starts today by not going to the hospital… I have no desire to work under the military dictatorship,” said Nor Nor Wint Wah, a doctor in Mandalay.

Activists were announcing their campaigns on a Facebook group called “Civil Disobedience Movement” which by Wednesday afternoon had more than 150,000 followers within 24 hours of its launch.

The clatter of pots and pans — and the honking of car horns — also rang out across Yangon on Tuesday evening after calls for protest went out on social media.

– Military’s deadly legacy –
Army chief Min Aung Hlaing appointed himself head of a new cabinet stacked with former and current generals, justifying his coup on Tuesday as the “inevitable” result of civilian leaders’ failure to heed the army’s fraud warnings.

READ ALSO: WHO Team Visits Chinese Virus Lab In Wuhan

The military declared a one-year state of emergency and said it would hold new elections once their allegations of voter irregularities were addressed and investigated.

The move stunned Myanmar, a country left impoverished by decades of junta misrule before it began taking steps towards a more democratic and civilian-led government 10 years ago.

But protesting is fraught with risk.

During junta rule, dissent was quashed with thousands of activists — including Suu Kyi — detained for years on end.

Censorship was pervasive and the military frequently deployed lethal force during periods of political turmoil, most notably during huge protests in 1988 and 2007.

The new government has already issued a warning telling people not to say or post anything that might “encourage riots or an unstable situation”.

– International censure –
The army’s actions have been met with a growing chorus of international condemnation although the options are limited for those nations hoping Myanmar’s generals might reverse course.

On Tuesday the State Department formally designated the takeover as a coup, meaning the United States cannot assist the Myanmar government.

Any impact will be mainly symbolic, as almost all assistance goes to non-government entities and Myanmar’s military was already under US sanctions over its brutal campaign against the Rohingya minority.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the European Union and several other nations have also spoken out.

The International Monetary Fund on Wednesday said it was “deeply concerned about the impact of events on the economy and on the people of Myanmar.”

Last month the IMF sent $350 million in emergency aid to Myanmar to help battle the coronavirus pandemic.

The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting Tuesday but failed to agree on a statement condemning the coup.

To be adopted, it requires the support of China, which wields veto power as a permanent Security Council member and is Myanmar’s main supporter at the UN.

“China and Russia have asked for more time”, said a diplomat requesting anonymity at the end of the meeting, which lasted just over two hours.

Both countries repeatedly shielded Myanmar from censure at the UN over the military’s crackdown on the Rohingya, a campaign that UN investigators said amounted to genocide.

On Wednesday, foreign ministers of the G7 group of the world’s wealthiest nations echoed the worries over Suu Kyi and President Win Myint’s detention.

They called in a joint statement for the military to “restore power to the democratically-elected government and release all those unjustly detained”.

The coup is the first major foreign policy test for US President Joe Biden, who has vowed to stand up for wobbly democracies and defend human rights.

In a forceful statement on Monday he said the US would consider imposing fresh sanctions on Myanmar.

But Washington is also wary of pushing Myanmar further into China’s orbit.

“China is only too happy to step in with material and political support for the Burmese military as part of its ongoing effort to maximize its influence in Southeast Asia,” said Daniel Russel, from the Asia Society Policy Institute.

AFP