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Myanmar coup: Aung San Suu Kyi faces new charge

February 16, 2021

The former leader has already been charged over importing walkie talkies, since she was deposed in a military coup over two weeks ago.

Protesters display a poster with an image of detained Myanmar leader Aung Saan Suu Kyi
The military coup and Suu Kyi's detention have sparked nationwide protestsImage: Sai Aung Main/AFP/Getty Images

Authorities in Myanmar filed a second charge against the country's ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, her lawyer said on Tuesday.

Suu Kyi was taken into custody on February 1 whenMyanmar's military staged a coup against her civilian government.

What is the new charge?

Suu Kyi now faces a charge of violating a section of Myanmar's Natural Disaster Law, Khin Maung Zaw told local media.

Although further details on the charge were not immediately available, the violation has been used to prosecute those who have violated coronavirus restrictions.

The charge may allow her to be detained indefinitely without a trial, due to changes to the country's Penal Code that the junta implemented last week.

The rule change allows for suspects to be detained without court permission in certain cases, according to the Associated Press.

Suu Kyi has already been charged under the country's import and export laws for having walkie talkies in her home that were imported without being registered.

What has the military said?

Suu Kyi's lawyers and her National League for Democracy party have said they have not be able to make contact with her since she was detained.

Facing ongoing protests against the coup and calls for Suu Kyi's release, Myanmar's military said on Tuesday that she was "in good health."

"It's not like they were arrested — they are staying at their houses," said military spokesman Zaw Min Tun at a press conference. 

He added that Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint are being held at a "safer place for their security."

Suu Kyi is believed to be under house arrest at her residence in the capital, Naypyitaw.

German politician recommends sanctions, arms embargo

Germany and the European Union (EU) "should impose an arms embargo against the military rulers in Myanmar and also restrict the country's privileged access to the European market," said Christoph Hoffmann, a German parliamentary member from the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP), in an interview with DW on Tuesday.

Going forward, "all personal assets of the generals in Europe should also be blocked," he continued. 

Hoffmann criticized the EU's slow response to Myanmar's military coup which began over two weeks ago, adding that he hoped a meeting of EU foreign ministers next week would result in "further measures" against its leaders.

Charges against Suu Kyi 'ridiculous'

Hoffmann called the new charges against Suu Kyi "ridiculous", arguing: "She should be set free. The military leaders are just trying to find some excuse for what they are doing."

Washington also weighed in. At a press briefing on Tuesday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the Biden Administration was "disturbed" by reports that the military had charged Suu Kyi with additional criminal acts". 

President Biden has called the seizure of power "a direct assault on the country's transition to democracy and the rule of law," said Price.

The US government demands the military "immediately release all unjustly detained civilian and political leaders, journalists and human rights activists and other members of civil society as well as to restore the democratically elected government," Price told reporters.

Internet down for a third night

The nation experienced a "near-total internet shutdown" for the third night in a row, a monitoring group said early Wednesday. 

Plunging the nation deeper into an information blackout, the last two nights the internet has gone down from 1:00 am to 9:00 am, . 

"Confirmed: Myanmar is in the midst of a near-total internet shutdown for the third night in a row amid anti-coup protests," NetBlocks, a Britain-based group that monitors internet outages around the world, wrote on Twitter. 

What is the latest with the protests?

Protesters across Myanmar took to the streets again on Tuesday.

The UN's special envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, told DW the junta "didn't expect so many people to go out onto the streets."

Some 3,000 demonstrators, mainly students, carried posters of Suu Kyi during a protest in Mandalay.

The protests in Myanmar's second-largest city saw a lower security presence than on Monday, when authorities violently broke up the demonstrations.

In the economic hub of Yangon, police cordoned off the street in front of the Central Bank, where protesters have been gathering in recent days. 

The United States, United Nations and dozens of other countries have urged the junta to return the country's democratically-elected government to power.

"Unity around the world is very important to not accept this coup," said Christine Schraner Burgener.

rs, mb/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP)