Detained leader’s trial kicks off in Myanmar

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021 00:00 | 2 mins read
Protesters make the three-finger salute as they take part in a flash mob demonstration against the military coup in Yangon yesterday. Photo/AFP

Rangoon, Monday

The trial of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has gotten under way, more than four months after a military coup.

On Monday, the court heard a police major testify that Aung San Suu Kyi broke coronavirus restrictions during last year’s elections that her National League for Democracy (NLD) won in a landslide, while another testified on separate charges accusing her of illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, her lawyer Min Min Soe told AFP news agency.

The military rulers have brought an eclectic raft of charges against Aung San Suu Kyi, including claims she accepted illegal payments of gold and violated a colonial-era secrecy law.

Aung San Suu Kyi was hit with additional corruption charges on Thursday over claims she illegally accepted $600,000 in cash and approximately 11kg of gold.

Special court

Journalists were barred from proceedings in the special court in the capital Naypyidaw, but an AFP reporter said there was a heavy police presence outside.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyers, who have struggled to gain access to their client, say they expect the trial to wrap up by July 26.

A separate trial is scheduled to start on Tuesday over sedition charges she faces alongside overthrown president Win Myint and another senior member of the NLD.

If convicted of all charges, Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, faces more than a decade in jail.

“It is a show trial motivated only by political reasons,” Debbie Stothard, Coordinator of the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma, told AFP.

“Min Aung Hlaing [military chief] is determined to lock up Aung San Suu Kyi for the rest of her life. If he could, he would probably charge her under every law available.”

Human Rights Watch said the allegations were “bogus and politically motivated” with the intention of nullifying the NLD victory and preventing Aung San Suu Kyi from running for office again.

Strategy to neuter

“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,” said Phil Robertson, the organisation’s deputy Asia director.

Near-daily protests have rocked Myanmar since the generals’ February 1 putsch. A mass uprising has been met with a brutal military crackdown that has killed more than 850 civilians, according to a local monitoring group. - AFP