| 27 February 2024, Tuesday |

Suu Kyi’s trial set to start in Myanmar, junta rejects UN rights chief’s statement

The trial of Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi is due to begin on Monday, despite the junta’s rejection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ criticism of its use of lethal force against demonstrators.

Since the junta seized power on Feb. 1 and imprisoned Suu Kyi and other prominent members of her party, daily protests and fighting between the armed forces and ethnic minority guerrilla forces and militias have erupted in Myanmar.

Suu Kyi, 75, is scheduled to go on trial on Monday on charges of violating coronavirus restrictions while campaigning for the election she won last November, as well as having unregistered walkie-talkies.

The first trial is expected to run until the end of July, her lawyer said.

In addition to the charges of intent to instigate, breaching the official secrets act, and taking $600,000 and 11.4 kilograms of gold from Yangon’s former chief minister, Nobel laureate Suu Kyi faces other more serious charges.

Suu Kyi’s legal team has denied any wrongdoing on her part, and her chief counsel, Khin Maung Zaw, has dubbed the latest corruption allegations “absurd.”

In a statement, Human Rights Watch’s Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said the charges against Suu Kyi “are spurious and politically motivated” and “should be withdrawn, leading in her immediate and unconditional release.”

The army says it took power by force because Suu Kyi’s party won the election through voter fraud, an accusation rejected by the previous election commission and international monitors.

Myanmar’s security forces have killed at least 862 people during their crackdown on protests since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an activist group, though the junta disputes the number.

Pro-democracy supporters took to the streets of the main city of Yangon on Monday, some chanting “revolutionary war, we participate”, according to social media posts.

Some activists said they planned to stage a series of strikes and protests on Monday to coincide with the birthday of Che Guevara, a Latin American revolutionary who became an international icon after his death.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on Friday that violence was intensifying and condemned the army’s “outrageous” use of heavy weapons.

Bachelet said the junta had shown no willingness to implement a five-point consensus it agreed with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in April to halt violence and start dialogue with its opponents.

Myanmar’s junta-led ministry of foreign affairs criticized Bachelet’s comments in a press release, disputing the report’s accuracy and impartiality.

“The report failed to acknowledge or condemn acts of sabotage and terrorism perpetrated by unlawful associations and terrorist groups, as well as the suffering and deaths of security officers,” it stated.

The junta has labeled a parallel National Unity Government formed by Suu Kyi supporters as a terrorist organization, accusing it of bombings, arson, and assassinations.

After abducting a group of 47 individuals last month, Myanmar’s junta-controlled media accused an ethnic armed group of killing 25 construction workers in the country’s east.

The Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO) could not be reached for comment on the allegations by Reuters. A junta spokeswoman did not return calls seeking additional information.

  • Reuters