Police leveled their first formal charge against Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, members of her party said Wednesday, giving military authorities who staged a coup a legal reason to detain her at least through the middle of the month.
The charge — that Suu Kyi was in possession of illegally imported walkie talkies — came to light two days after she was placed under house arrest and appeared to be an effort to lend a legal veneer to her detention, though the generals have previously kept her and others locked up for years.
The military announced Monday that it would take power for one year — accusing Suu Kyi’s government of not investigating allegations of voter fraud in recent elections. Suu Kyi’s party swept that vote, and the military-backed party did poorly.
National League for Democracy spokesman Kyi Toe confirmed the charge against Suu Kyi that carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison. He also said the country’s ousted president, Win Myint, was charged with violating the natural disaster management law. A leaked charge sheet dated Feb. 1 indicates they can be held until Feb. 15.
“It was clear that the military were going to look for some legal cases against the leaders of the National League for Democracy and especially Aung San Suu Kyi to actually legitimize what they’ve tried to do,” said Larry Jagan, an independent analyst of Myanmar affairs. “And that is really a power grab.”
Police and court officials in the capital Naypyitaw could not immediately be contacted.
At the same time that authorities were working to keep Suu Kyi in detention, hundreds of lawmakers who had been forced to stay at government housing after the coup were told Wednesday to leave the capital city within 24 hours and go home, said a member of Parliament from Suu Kyi’s party who is among the group. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared drawing the attention of the military.
The coup was a dramatic backslide for Myanmar, which had been making progress toward democracy, and highlighted the extent to which the generals have ultimately maintained control in the Southeast Asian country.
CALL FOR NON-VIOLENT PROTESTS
In response to the coup, Suu Kyi’s party has called for non-violent resistance, and scores of people in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, honked car horns and banged on pots and pans on Tuesday night in a protest. Supporters of the military have also staged demonstrations.
Medical workers have also declared they won’t for the new military government in protest of the coup at a time when the country is battling a steady rise in Covid-19 cases with a dangerously inadequate health system. Photos were shared on social media showing health workers with red ribbons pinned to their clothes or holding printed photos of red ribbons.
There were also protests in neighboring Thailand, where Khin Maung Soo, a Myanmar national, said Wednesday that he was demonstrating to “show the world that we are not happy with what happened.”
He added: “We want to the world to know, and we want the whole world to help us too.”