Two new charges were levelled against Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar on Monday, a month after she was ousted from her position at the top of the government and put under house arrest after a coup.
Myanmar has seen regular demonstrations since the coup. At least 18 people are believed to have died on Sunday – with more than 30 injured – which would make it the bloodiest day since the coup to date.
During her second court hearing via videoconference, former dissident Suu Kyi was charged with violating section 505b of the criminal code, which makes it illegal to issue “any statement, rumour or report” likely to induce members of the public to “commit an offence against the state,” according to news portal Myanmar Now.
The second charge regarded violation of the telecommunications law for possession of devices for which a license is needed.
This brings the total number of charges against Suu Kyi to four.
She had previously been charged with breaches of the country’s emergency management law, in connection with the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, and with a violation of import and export laws for possession of walkie talkies.
Observers believe the main goal of the charges is to keep Suu Kyi off the political stage.
Min Min Soe, an attorney of Suu Kyi’s defence team who attended the videoconference, said she was in good health. “She said at the hearing that she wanted to meet with her lawyer. The judge told her that he is working on it,” Min Min Soe told Myanmar Now.
Since her arrest, Suu Kyi has not been seen in public and has not been allowed to meet with her lawyer.
Win Myint, the country’s deposed president, was also charged under section 505b of the criminal code during the hearing, which was not broadcast to the public.
The next court date was scheduled for March 15.
Suu Kyi spent years in house arrest as a dissident and became a political icon. After the military relaxed its hold a decade ago, her National League of Democracy party surged in elections. Although she was barred from taking key offices, she created the role of state counsellor for herself and became the country’s de facto ruler.
Her party romped to power again in November elections, but the armed forces made allegations of election tampering. Although the military was guaranteed control of key ministries and enjoyed enough parliamentary seats to block any legislation, many believe it was astounded at how poorly it did in the polls.
South-East Asian foreign ministers will hold a special online meeting on Tuesday to discuss the crisis in Myanmar, Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry said.
“(Indonesian) Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi will attend the virtual meeting,” ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said. He did not provide further details.
Retno has been touring ASEAN member countries in an effort of shuttle diplomacy to forge a common regional stance on the coup.
Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told his country’s parliament on Monday that the government was “appalled by the use of lethal force against civilians.”
Balakrishnan called for Suu Kyi and others arrested to be “immediately released.”