Myanmar’s junta on Friday filed five new corruption charges against the ousted party leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Aung San Suu Kyi, according to a source close to the secret court, where she is being prosecuted, giving the total number of crimes she is accused of. to 16.
The charges, which were also filed against former President Win Myint, are related to the purchase and use of helicopters from the National Disaster Management Fund to carry out disaster prevention activities under the NLD government, the source from the court in the capital Naypyidaw told RFA’s Myanmar Service, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s legal team applied to represent her against the new charges on Friday and was told by the court that it would review the request on January 21.
During Friday’s hearing, the court heard testimony from Khin Mar Cho, the auditor general of the Yangon region, who was presented by junta prosecutors to talk about the corruption charges.
Earlier this week, the court sentenced Aung San Suu Kyi to four years in prison for illegal possession of walkie-talkies and violation of COVID-19 rules, raising the prison sentence she was sentenced to behind closed doors to six years.
On December 6, Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Myint received two years for agitation against the military and two years for violating coronavirus restrictions, which junta chief Min Aung Hlaing reduced to two years under house arrest.
The former Attorney General’s lawyers have since October been barred by Myanmar’s military authorities from releasing information or commenting publicly on the two cases being processed.
She has rejected all allegations that her supporters, rights groups and foreign governments have condemned as political.
Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Myint were arrested by the military shortly after its February 1, 2021 coup, which overthrew the NLD government.
The junta says voter fraud led to the NLD’s landslide victory in the country’s election in November 2020, but that it has not yet provided evidence for its claims, and that it has vehemently suppressed nationwide protests demanding a return to civilian rule, killing 1,469 people and arresting more than 8,600 in the country. 11 months ago, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
In addition to the 16 charges Aung San Suu Kyi faces, the junta has announced plans to sue her for allegedly arranging the ballot in the parliamentary election. If she receives the maximum sentence for each of the charges, she will serve more than 160 years in prison.
A pretext for removal
Observers told RFA that the new charges are part of a junta bid to remove Aung San Suu Kyi from the country’s political arena.
My Lwin Oo, a Norway-based human rights lawyer, said that a helicopter is a necessary asset for any leader hoping to deal with their country’s natural disasters.
“Without that helicopter, she might have to request that the air force provide her with transportation,” he said. “I do not think that is the good reason to bring charges against her. It is a pretext to exclude her from politics permanently. “
Tint Swe, a former colleague of Aung San Suu Kyi who participated in the country’s election in 1990 and now lives in the United States, called the new charges “part of the scheme the military regime has used to screw up judgments.
“I see these accusations as a pretext from the military regime to remove her from politics and prevent her from being elected, once and for all,” he said.
“Based on their actions, we can not trust their promise to return to democracy [through new elections]. I think they are increasing the taxes as the international pressure increases to show that they are not bothered by it. “
Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia at New York-based Human Rights Watch, said the allegations were part of a “false accusation” trend against Aung San Suu Kyi, “all with the aim of prosecuting her and ensuring that she will never be free to contest the power of the military regime. “
“They see it as a justification for their coup. They use this as an example of why they had to get rid of her, and then from their perspective, the more accusations, the better, ”he said.
“But you know she’s already 76. If they give her 10 years or they give her 100 years in prison, it’s still going to be the same result because she will not be able to be released again and certainly not will be able to assume her position as the elected leader of Myanmar. “
Reported and translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.