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Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi to face court this week: Lawyer

Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi to face court this week: Lawyer

Demonstrators hold up signs during a protest against the military coup, demanding the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in Yangon, Myanmar, Feb 13, 2021. (Photo: Reuters)

YANGON: Myanmar's deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi will appear in court via video conference this week over charges brought against her by the new military junta, her lawyer said Monday (Feb 15).

Aung San Suu Kyi, detained since a Feb 1 coup against her elected government, had been expected to face a court on Monday in connection with charges of illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios, but a judge said her remand lasted until Wednesday, her lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, said.

"We came here to submit our power of attorney letter and discussed with the district judge. According to him, the remand is until the 17th and not today," Khin Maung Zaw told reporters, adding that he was still trying to see her in line with the law.

READ: Myanmar troops fire on protesters in signs of feared crackdown

Demonstrators near the central bank in Yangon on Feb 15, 2021. (Photo: Naung Kham)

When asked about the fairness of the proceedings, the lawyer said: "Whether it is fair or not, you can decide yourself."

The judge in Naypyidaw had spoken to Suu Kyi by video conferencing and she had asked if she could hire a lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw told Reuters.

The government and army could not be reached for comment.​​​​​​​

Aung San Suu Kyi's extended detention is likely to further inflame tensions between the military, which seized power in a Feb 1 coup. Protesters have taken to the streets of cities across the nation seeking the return of the government they elected.

READ: Myanmar nationals in Japan march in protest of military coup

PROTESTERS UNDAUNTED

The unrest has revived memories of bloody outbreaks of opposition to almost half a century of direct army rule over the Southeast Asian nation, which ended in 2011, when the military began a process of withdrawing from civilian politics.

Violence this time has been limited, although police have opened fire on several occasions to disperse protesters. One woman who was hit by police fire in the capital Naypyitaw last week is not expected to survive.

Protesters continued to gather across Myanmar on Monday following a night in which authorities cut the country’s Internet access and increased the security presence in major cities, seeking to curtail demonstrations.

More than a dozen police trucks with four water cannon vehicles were deployed on Monday near the Sule Pagoda in central Yangon, which has been one of the main demonstration sites in the commercial capital, as groups of protesters gathered outside the central bank and the Chinese embassy.

Protesters near Central Bank in Yangon, Myanmar on Feb 15, 2021. (Photo: Naung Kham)

At the bank, several hundred protesters quietly held up signs calling for colleagues to join the CDM - the civil disobedience movement.

An armoured vehicle and about six trucks carrying soldiers were parked nearby, a witness said.

Armoured vehicles were also deployed on Sunday in the northern town of Myitkyina and Sittwe in the west, the first large-scale use of such vehicles since the coup.

More soldiers have also been spotted on the streets to help police who have been largely overseeing crowd control, including members of the 77th Light Infantry Division, a mobile force known for its brutal campaigns against ethnic minority insurgents and against protests in the past.

Police in Naypyidaw detained about 20 high-school students protesting by a road. Images posted on social media by one of the students showed them chanting slogans of defiance as they were taken away in a police bus.

Soldiers inside an army tank near Central Bank in Yangon, Myanmar on Feb 15, 2021. (Photo: Naung Kham)

"Remember, we don't swear at the police and don't sign anything at the police station," one student can be heard saying.

Media also showed orderly ranks of protesters marching in Naypyidaw with pictures of Aung San Suu Kyi with the message: "we want our leader".

On Monday, media and residents said security forces used rubber bullets and catapults in the city of Mandalay, wounding two people lightly.

READ: Myanmar experiencing 'near-total Internet shutdown'

Western embassies - from the European Union, Britain, Canada and 11 other nations - issued a statement late on Sunday calling on security forces to "refrain from violence against demonstrators and civilians, who are protesting the overthrow of their legitimate government".

The army has been carrying out nightly arrests and has given itself sweeping search and detention powers. At least 400 people have been detained since the coup, the monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said.

On Sunday, the military published penal code amendments aimed at stifling dissent and residents reported an Internet outage after midnight on Sunday which lasted until about 9am.

The amendments to the penal code set out a 20-year prison term for inciting hatred of the government or military or hindering the security forces engaged in preserving state stability.

READ: Myanmar junta warns public not to hide fugitive protesters

Hindering the security forces carrying out their duties is punishable by seven years in prison while spreading fear, fake news or agitating against government employees gets three years, according to the amendments posted on a military website.

The junta has ordered civil servants back to work, threatening action.

In the latest sign of disruption by workers, the Department of Civil Aviation said in a statement many staff had stopped coming to work since Feb 8, causing flight delays.

Some trains have also stopped running, media reported.

Source: AGENCIES/zl/lk

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