YANGON — Myanmar’s military charges against State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint after the coup have been condemned as an assault on the rule of law.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was sued for allegedly possessing illegally imported walkie-talkies under the Export and Import Law while U Win Myint was sued for allegedly breaching election campaign guidelines and COVID-19 restrictions under the Natural Disaster Management Law, according to their party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). Both charges carry up to three years’ imprisonment. The charges may also bar Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from running for office.
Veteran democracy activist U Min Ko Naing, a leader of the 1988 uprising, called the charges against the elected civilian leaders an “insult to the hearts of the people”.
“It shows that no one is safe. There is no guarantee. Anyone can be arrested under any charge. We can no longer talk about the rule of law or judiciary. The weapon has become the law [for the military],” he said.
The NLD’s Karen State chief minister, Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint, who is under house arrest, told the RFA Burmese news service “the charges against our leaders are a seditious conspiracy to put down the country”.
Legal adviser U Khin Maung Myint said the regime’s charges were a move to have legal grounds to detain the two leaders for two weeks. According to a leaked police document on social media, a court remanded them in custody until Feb. 15.
U Khin Maung Myint said using trivial charges, which are non-bailable, to lockup the leaders showed the weakening of the rule of law.
“What worries me is that if leaders are prosecuted like that, we will not be able to get justice for ordinary workers. Legal protection is no longer available. The essence of the law has been harmed,” he added.
Human rights lawyer U Kyi Myint said the approval of the parliamentary speaker and president is needed to charge Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, a cabinet member and parliamentarian. Without their approval, the prosecution was unlawful, he added.
The president, vice-presidents and parliamentary speakers remain in office until replacements are selected under the 2008 Constitution.
The United States said it was “disturbed” by the charges. “We call on the military to immediately release them all, including other detained dissidents,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted on Thursday: “We condemn the detention and charges against Aung San Suu Kyi and other elected officials. They must be released immediately and have charges removed.”
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