UN envoy issues Myanmar warning after Suu Kyi hit with new charge
Protesters hold up the three finger salute with signs calling for the release of detained Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on February 16, 2021.
AFP/Ye Aung Thu

UN envoy issues Myanmar warning after Suu Kyi hit with new charge

(Agence France-Presse) - February 17, 2021 - 7:45am

YANGON, Myanmar — The UN special envoy on Myanmar has warned of the potential for an escalation of violence in the country on Wednesday, as anti-coup protesters are expected to face off once again with the military.

The warning comes after deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was slapped with a second charge on Tuesday — and the UN rapporteur hinted she may have even secretly been put on trial. 

Myanmar was plunged into an internet blackout for the third night running, Britain-based monitoring group NetBlocks said, as the generals try to wear down the anti-coup uprising.

In the two weeks since the military ousted Suu Kyi and put her under house arrest in the administrative capital Naypyidaw, big cities and isolated village communities alike have been in open revolt.

But Tom Andrews, the UN special rapporteur for Myanmar, said he was worried the situation was spiralling out of control.

"I fear that Wednesday has the potential for violence on a greater scale in Myanmar than we have seen since the illegal takeover of the government on February 1," Andrews said in a statement.

He said he had "received reports of soldiers being transported into at least Yangon from outlying regions".

"In the past, such troop movements preceded killings, disappearances, and detentions on a mass scale," he said.

"I am terrified that given the confluence of these two developments — planned mass protests and troops converging — we could be on the precipice of the military committing even greater crimes against the people of Myanmar."

New charge

The military justified its power seizure by alleging widespread voter fraud in November elections won by Suu Kyi's party.

After her detention in a dawn raid on February 1 — the day of the coup — Suu Kyi was charged under an obscure import and export law, over walkie talkies that were found in her home.

The Nobel laureate's lawyer told AFP on Tuesday she had been hit with a second charge, of violating the country's disaster management law.

"She was charged under section 8 of the Export and Import law and section 25 of the Natural Disaster Management law as well," Khin Maung Zaw told AFP.

While it was unclear how the disaster law applied in Suu Kyi's case, it has been used against deposed president Win Myint — also arrested on February 1 — relating to a campaign event that the junta alleges broke coronavirus-related restrictions.

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

But Andrews said he had "word that a secretive trial" of Suu Kyi and deposed president Win Myint had begun this week, without offering more details.

Military spokesman Zaw Min Tun said Tuesday that both Suu Kyi and Win Myint were in a "safer place" and "in good health".

"It's not like they were arrested — they are staying at their houses," the general, who became the country's vice-minister of information after the coup, told a press conference.

The United States and Britain condemned the new charge against Suu Kyi, and renewed demands for her release.

More than 420 people have been arrested since the coup, according to a list of confirmed detentions from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group. 

'They want to do bad things'

Security forces have used increasingly heavy measures to quell huge nationwide street protests and a disobedience campaign encouraging civil servants to strike. 

Troops have fanned out around the country in recent days.

Rubber bullets, tear gas and even sling shots have been used against protesters.

"They shut down the internet because they want to do bad things," Win Tun, a 44-year-old who lives in the commercial capital Yangon, said Tuesday.

Undeterred, crowds returned to the streets of Yangon and around the country on Tuesday.

"I want more people to join the protests, we don't want to be seen as weak," said university student Thwe Ei Sann. 

A large crowd blocked railway tracks outside Mawlamyine to prevent a Yangon-bound train from leaving the port city.

Many of the country's train drivers have joined the anti-coup work boycotts, frustrating junta efforts to restart the national railway network after a Covid-19 shutdown.

'Not what China wants to see'

The United States and Britain were not alone in their condemnation of the leaders of Myanmar's new military administration, which insists it took power lawfully.

The Chinese ambassador to Myanmar said Tuesday that "the current development in Myanmar is absolutely not what China wants to see".

So far, only Washington has announced targeted sanctions against the generals, calling on them to relinquish power. 

Military spokesman Zaw Min Tun said that "sanctions are expected", and that the regime would continue to "maintain friendly relations" with the international community.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: May 11, 2021 - 1:22pm

Follow this thread for updates on the situation in Myanmar, where a coup may be happening after de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other officials have reportedly been detained by the military.

Photo: Military officers wearing facemasks who serve as members of Myanmar's parliament leave after a session at the Assembly of the Union (Pyidaungsu Hluttaw) in Naypyidaw on March 10, 2020. AFP/Ye Aung Thu

May 11, 2021 - 1:22pm

Three Myanmar journalists have been arrested in Thailand after fleeing across the border to escape a crackdown by the military junta, their employer has said.

The trio were set to appear in court on Tuesday, their editor added, urging Thai authorities not to repatriate them to the coup-hit country.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, triggering a mass uprising as large swathes of the population take to the streets to demand democracy. —  AFP

May 10, 2021 - 11:46am

One hundred days after the military seized power in Myanmar, the nun who pleaded for protesters on her knees in the street says the coup has cast a pall of fear and depression over the country.

The image of Sister Ann Rose Nu Tawng kneeling in the dust, arms spread, begging police not to shoot "the children" went viral in March as an uprising swelled in Myanmar.

Today, the 45-year-old nun works in a clinic in Myanmar's northernmost Kachin state, tending to patients injured by security forces, sickened from stress, and even those who try to kill themselves.

"With the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic and brutal actions of the military, there are more people who feel depressed and want to commit suicide," she told AFP.

"People are living in fear and they feel hopeless." 

On Tuesday, 100 days will have passed since the generals made their lightning power grab in the early morning of February 1, ousting and detaining civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. — AFP

May 4, 2021 - 6:17pm

The Myanmar junta has charged a Japanese journalist under a "fake news" law, a report said Tuesday, in the latest blow to press freedom since the military seized power.

Freelance reporter Yuki Kitazumi was arrested last month and charged on Monday — World Press Freedom Day — with spreading fake news, according to a report by Kyodo news agency.

He is one of 50 journalists currently held in Myanmar as part of the junta's crackdown on widespread protests against its February 1 coup.

The country has been in turmoil since civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi's government was ousted, with more than 750 people killed as security forces struggle to quash near-daily demonstrations against their rule. — AFP

April 28, 2021 - 8:25pm

Myanmar's military launched air assaults for the second day in a row into rebel-held territory after gunfire was heard from neighboring Thailand, a Thai official said Wednesday, as fighting escalates along the border.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the junta ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a February 1 coup, its power grab angering much of its population.

The anti-junta movement has also garnered some support from some ethnic rebel groups, which controls territory along Myanmar's border regions.

The Karen National Union (KNU), one of the most prominent, has been among the junta's most vocal opponents — blasting the junta for violence against anti-coup protesters. 

Clashes with the military in KNU's territory along the eastern border have increased since Feb 1, with the junta deploying air assaults last month -- the first instance in Karen state in over 20 years. — AFP

April 26, 2021 - 5:28pm

Myanmar's junta again postponed court proceedings against deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday her lawyers said, as they fight for permission to visit her 12 weeks after she was detained.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military ousted the Nobel laureate in a February 1 coup, shunting the country back into junta rule after a brief experiment with democracy. 

Large swathes of the population have taken to the streets in protest, with security forces unleashing a brutal campaign to quell the massive uprising. 

Meanwhile Suu Kyi has been under house arrest, with the junta charging her under six cases — including for sedition and having unlicensed walkie-talkies. 

But movement on her case was once again delayed until May 10, her lawyer Min Min Soe said Monday after a hearing. — AFP

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