Aung San Suu Kyi ‘in Good Health,’ Says Lawyer After First Meeting Since Coup

2021-03-31
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Aung San Suu Kyi ‘in Good Health,’ Says Lawyer After First Meeting Since Coup Ethnic Karen people take part in an anti-military coup demonstration in Hlaingbwe township, eastern Myanmar's Kayin state, March 31, 2021.
AFP/Karen Information Center

Detained Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi is “in good health,” said the lead lawyer defending her in court cases brought by the junta that overthrew her elected government two months ago, following their first meeting on Wednesday.

The deposed state counselor, 75, spoke with junior attorney Min Min Soe via video conference in the presence of police on both sides, with Aung San Suu Kyi saying that she would later “come down in person” to meet privately with her legal team, head defense attorney Khin Maung Zaw told RFA.

“They were not able to discuss anything except the case,” he said. “She was in good health, and she had asked the police guarding her to allow her to meet with all six of her lawyers, according to Min Min Soe.”

Two previous hearings were cancelled because of regime-imposed internet service cutoffs. Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest in the capital Naypyidaw, has her next court hearing via video conference on Thursday.

Khin Maung Zaw also said he heard that another case had been opened against Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon, but that he had not yet received formal notice. There was no immediate reply to her requests.

Aung San Suu Kyi faces four other charges for alleged incitement and sedition, violation of telecommunication laws, possession of unlicensed walkie-talkie radios, and violation of the Natural Disaster Management Law for breaching COVID-19 pandemic restrictions during the 2020 election campaign.

The military regime also has launched a corruption investigation of Aung San Suu Kyi for allegedly accepting U.S. $600,000 and gold from detained Yangon region chief Phyo Min Thein and a businessman.

Dozens of other officials from the state counselor’s National League for Democracy (NLD) also have been detained by the military junta that seized power in a Feb. 1 coup,

Kyaw Kyaw, an NLD official in Naypyidaw’s Zabuthiri township, was killed by soldiers and police during his detention, family and close friends said Wednesday, a day after they were called to inspect his body before cremation.

Arrested on March 15, he is third the NLD official to die in custody under the military regime.

Family members and close friends said in Facebook posts that Kyaw Kyaw died after being tortured.

“Kyaw Kyaw, who lives in Gon Min Inn village in Zabuthiri township, was arrested on March 15,” said a post written by Mal Chaw. “On March 30, the military notified the family to come and see the body. The family visited the body this morning and held funeral rites at home.”

Phyo Zeya Thaw, a former NLD lawmaker from Zabuthiri township, wrote on his Facebook page that Kyaw Kyaw, who “was unjustly arrested on March 15, has died at the hands of a military terrorists’ interrogation camp.”

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Myanmar anti-junta protesters stage a sit-in on a road in Tamwe township, Yangon region, March 31, 2021. Credit: RFA

Protests continue

The beatings and shootings have not stopped protesters from taking to the streets to oppose the two-month-old military regime.

More than 500 demonstrators, bystanders, and others have been killed in anti-junta rallies that have rocked the country since the coup took place.

Anti-regime protesters held rallies and marches across the country, with people in the commercial hub Yangon banging pots and pans, honking car horns, and displaying three-finger salutes of defiance along the route where a CNN reporter was traveling with soldiers in a military convoy.

The military regime let the report into the country, despite having banned five domestic news outlets and detaining 53 journalists since Feb. 1. Nearly 30 of them have been released with two out on bail.

At least 16 people died in the past 48 hours during nighttime crackdowns, residents in several locations said.

In Yangon’s South Dagon township, locals reported that security forces barged into homes and shot anyone they came across with guns and heavy weaponry, forcing many people to flee the area.

The conflict over the coup has also spilled over into the Myanmar military’s difficult relations with the country’s many ethnic armed organizations, some of whom have sheltered and supported protesters fleeing arrest.

At least 10 people have been killed, and many others have been injured, amid repeated air strikes by the Myanmar military in rebel-controlled areas of Kayin state since Mar. 27. Thousands of villagers have fled to safety in the Thai border region.

Thai military authorities have been expelling displaced Karen villagers who fled across the border as a result of the fighting between government troops and the Karen National Union (KNU), an armed ethnic organization that controls some of the state’s territory.

Eleven civilians were killed, and five others were injured, when two fighter jets attacked their villages in the KNU's 3rd Brigade territory on Tuesday, residents said, adding that the jets had made reconnaissance flights over the area between Mar. 27 and 29.

The 11 were company employees who died when two military jets bombed a gold mining plot at Madama Creek in Shwegyin township of neighboring Bago region, said the chairman of the Karen Social Welfare Organization in Shwegyin.

“At about 12:10 p.m. when the planes bombed the gold mine, 11 workers on the team led by Moe Aung were killed, [and] another five were wounded,” he said. “There had never been bombings here before, and the KNU is now working with us to provide as much medical treatment as possible.”

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Ethnic Karens who fled their villages to escape air strikes by the Myanmar military take shelter in a jungle in Hpapun district, eastern Myanmar's Kayin state, March 29, 2021. Credit: Free Burma Rangers

‘Hiding in a hut’

Military jets launched similar attacks Wednesday on Mae Panwa and Mae Wai villages in Hpapun township in the KNU’s 5th Brigade region, causing many casualties.

“Most of the villagers fled their homes,” said one resident who declined to be named for safety reasons. “We were hiding in a hut when we saw the bombs fall and dared not go outside.”

RFA could not reach junta spokesman Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun for comment.

The air strikes followed the fall of a military base camp in which a deputy battalion commander and nine others were killed by the KNU.

Myanmar forces bombed seven villages on Mar. 27 and 28, killing three people, injuring nine others, and destroying two houses, the KNU said in a statement.

At least 13 civilians, including a five-year-old child, were killed by air strikes in KNU-controlled areas between Mar. 28 and 30, according to the Free Burma Rangers, a multiethnic humanitarian service movement.

More than 10,000 people have fled the region and headed to the Thai border, though the Thai Army has sent back about 3,000 of them, despite the government saying that it had made arrangements for more than 40,000 refugees, according to news reports.

the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CPRH), a shadow parliament of lawmakers who won the November 2020 elections, said in a statement Wednesday that air strikes on indigenous armed forces, such as the KNU, were inhumane acts.

The CRPH said it would find ways to protect the lives and property of indigenous populations throughout the country and provide humanitarian assistance.

The Three Brotherhood Alliance of rebel groups — the Arakan Army (AA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) — has not yet decided whether to extend a temporary truce with the Myanmar military that expires Wednesday.

The alliance issued a statement Tuesday condemning the crackdowns on anti-junta protesters and other civilians, and said it would support and cooperate with those who are waging the Myanmar Spring Revolution if the violence did not stop.

Locals in northern Rakhine state have expressed concern that fighting between Myanmar forces and the AA will resume after a four-month hiatus.

“Fighting will continue if the Myanmar military launches an offensive,” said AA spokesman Khine Thukha on Wednesday. “Now, the Myanmar Army is attacking both Kayin state and Kachin state, … so whether there will be fighting in other places or not depends a lot on the movement of the Myanmar military and various situations ahead.”

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Myanmar anti-junta protesters burn tires on a street in Tamwe township, Yangon region, March 31, 2021. Credit: RFA

CRPH repeals constitution

The CRPH on Wednesday announced the repeal of the 2008 constitution, written by a previous military junta that ruled Myanmar, saying that the charter was designed to prolong the military dictatorship and prevent the emergence of a democratic federal union.

The Feb. 1 seizure of government power by military force violated the constitution nullifying the document's legality, the body said in a statement.

At the same time, the CRPH issued a 20-page Federal Democracy Charter to establish a democratic federal union guaranteeing equality and self-determination, and said that Mann Win Khaing Than, the acting leader of Myanmar’s parallel civilian government appointed by ousted lawmakers following the coup, would continue to run the country.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane and Kyaw Min Htun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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