Ousted Myanmar Leader Aung San Suu Kyi Goes on Trial in Naypyidaw

Human Rights Watch calls the trial a move by Myanmar's military to remove any chance of future opposition to its rule.
2021-06-14
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Ousted Myanmar Leader Aung San Suu Kyi Goes on Trial in Naypyidaw A protester holds up a banner calling for the release from military custody of deposed Myanmar national leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Yangon, Myanmar, Feb. 15, 2021.
AFP

Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, former national leaders deposed in a February 1 military coup, went on trial in the Myanmar capital Naypyidaw on Monday, with rights groups calling the charges against the pair “bogus” and politically motivated, sources said.

Meeting in a session closed to the public, the court heard three charges of alleged violations of Myanmar’s Disaster Management Law, Telecommunications Law, and Import/Export Law, defense attorney Min Min Soe told reporters after the day’s hearing.

“The trial opened at about 10:20 a.m. with [a reading of] the charge against the President under Section 25 of the Natural Disaster Management Law, and this was followed by the case of Amay Suu, who was charged under the same law,” Min Min Soe said, using an honorific to refer to the former de facto national leader and democracy icon.

After a short recess, the trial resumed at 1:45 with Myanmar police captain Kyi Lwin giving testimony against Aung San Suu Kyi related to a charge under Section 67 of the Telecommunications Law, Min Min Soe said, with another witness later giving testimony related to a charge against her under Section 8 of the Import/Export Law.

“Today’s session only heard witnesses for the prosecution,” the defense attorney said, adding that Aung San Suu Kyi appeared to be in good health apart from what he described as a “minor dental issue.” The trial will resume Monday, he said.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for the rights group Human Rights Watch, called the criminal charges filed by the court against Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of Myanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD), “bogus, and politically motivated by the intention to nullify her landslide election victory in the November 2020 election and prevent her from ever running for office again.”

Aung San Suu Kyi should be immediately and unconditionally released, with all charges against her dropped, Robertson said in a statement Monday.

“But sadly, with the restrictions on access to her lawyers, and the case being heard in front of a court that is wholly beholden to the military junta, there is little likelihood she will receive a fair trial,” Robertson said.

“This trial is clearly the opening salvo in an overall strategy to neuter Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy party as a force that can challenge military rule in the future.”

Multiple charges

Aung San Suu Kyi has been charged in six cases in Naypyidaw and one in the former Myanmar capital Yangon for allegedly violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act and with bribery, incitement and sedition, violation of the telecommunication laws, possession of unlicensed walkie-talkie radios, and violations of protocols set up to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The most serious charge against the 75-year-old Nobel laureate, for allegedly violating the Official Secrets Act, carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

Myanmar’s military has defended its government takeover, claiming without evidence that the NLD’s landslide victory in the country’s November elections was the result of voter fraud, and authorities have responded to widespread protests against its coup with violent crackdowns that have killed more than 850 people.

On Monday, the lawyer for Nathan Maung, a U.S. journalist arrested three months ago in Myanmar while working for a local online news service, said a court has now freed Maung and dropped all charges against him.

Maung will be deported from the country on Tuesday, according to attorney Tin Zar Oo, wire service reports said on Monday.

Myanmar national Hanthar Nyein, a colleague arrested with Maung, and Danny Fenster, a U.S. journalist and managing editor for the print and online magazine Frontier Myanmar, remain in military custody, sources said.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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