Aung San Suu Kyi Faces New Charge as Fires Destroy Malls, Homes in Myanmar’s Two Biggest Cities

2021-04-01
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Aung San Suu Kyi Faces New Charge as Fires Destroy Malls, Homes in Myanmar’s Two Biggest Cities Smoke rises from a fire at Ruby Mart in Yangon. with the Shwedagon Pagoda seen illuminated in the background, April 1, 2021.
AFP

Deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi was hit with a new legal charge Thursday, her first on-line arraignment in cases brought by the military regime that overthrew her elected government on Feb. 1, said her lawyers, one of whom quoted her as saying she had “prayed for the health of the people.”

Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest in the capital Naypyidaw, now faces a charge under the Government Secrets Act in the largest city Yangon, Khin Maung Zaw, the leader of her defense team told RFA, adding “the reason is still unknown.”

She was arraigned Thursday on 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.

Min Min Soe, one of her junior lawyers, said that she met online with Aung San Suu Kyi and two other detained senior leaders, president Win Myint and Naypyidaw Mayor Dr. Myo Aung, and all appeared to be in good health.

“Aung San Suu Kyi was not allowed to speak about the current political situation, but she said that she prayed for the health of the people,” said lawyer Min Min Soe.  The three leaders’ next hearing will be on April 12.

The trials of civilian leaders deposed and detained two months earlier inched forward as a pair of warehouse fires many in Myanmar viewed as suspicions destroyed two military-owned malls n Yangon, the former capital and commercial center.

Gandamar Whole Sale Mall on Gandamar Road, Yangon, and Ruby Mart Mall on Pansodan Road in the city center both caught fire at about one o’clock in the morning, burning everything inside both malls, leaving only the outer structure, witnesses said.

“We heard very loud fire engine sirens in the middle of the night on Kaba Aye Pagoda Rd, and we didn't realize what was going on.  I got up early in the morning and only then I saw the military-owned mall totally razed,” said a resident who lives near the Gandamar shopping mall.

”You could see the huge flames raging inside the building though the flames outside were being doused with water,” said another resident in a video shared online.

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Protesters carry a live-size cardboard figure of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a protest against the military coup. Credit: AP

Suspicious timing

The fires at the two military-owned malls occurred during the night curfew hours, when civilians are not allowed on the street, prompting widespread suspicion that they were deliberately set.

In Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-largest city and a scene of many deaths in protests, a fire destroyed over 100 houses early in the morning today, making more than 500 people homeless in Pyaygyi Tagun township.

“This fire is near the Taungthaman Inn Road. We can say it’s a huge fire looking at the flames. Oh, they have cut the power lines. Don’t know why,” said a citizen journalist who posted his account on social media.

Fires of unknown cause destroyed 60 houses in the same township on March 28.

Earlier Thursday night police and soldiers fired at a vehicle of the South Korean Shinhan Bank in Yangon, hitting an employee of the bank in the head and sending her to hospital in critical condition.

At least two people were shot dead in Mandalay’s Maha Aung Myae township todayWhile at least 10 people were seriously injured in gunfire by the army and police, local residents said.

Meanwhile in Monywa, the Sagaing region’s biggest city, where protests have gone on despite the shooting deaths of more than 20 people, troops and police fired on anti-coup protesters, killing two demonstrators and injuring at least two others

In the Kayin state town of Kawkareik, local residents said a motorcyclist threw a grenade at a military vehicle patrolling the area, killing one policeman and wounding two soldiers.

In a report from Kayin state, the Free Burma Rangers, a multiethnic humanitarian service movement, said Myanmar military jets continued to kill civilians Thursday and the attacks raised to more than 20,000 the number of displaced civilians in the state, which borders Thailand. 

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a Thailand-based NGO, said 543 people had died in the two months since the coup, with 2741 in custody.

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A resident salvages items after an overnight fire that engulfed over 100 houses in Mandalay on April 1, 2021, as the country continues to be in turmoil after the February military coup. Credit: AFP

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

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