The closed-door trial began in secret, with the two defendants appearing by video. The defence attorney wasn’t even aware what was happening. By the time he rushed to the court on Tuesday afternoon, it was all over, in less than an hour.
The trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s civilian leader who was ousted in a military coup two weeks ago, and U Win Myint, the deposed President, began on Tuesday. They face obscure charges that could land them in prison for six years and three years respectively.
Aung San Suu Kyi was accused of violating import restrictions after walkie-talkies and other foreign equipment were found in her villa compound. She was also charged with contravening a natural disaster management law by interacting with a crowd during the coronavirus pandemic, a charge that had not been disclosed publicly before.
Win Myint has been charged with breaching the natural disaster restrictions.
The first day of the trial of Myanmar’s elected leaders capped a dizzying two weeks in which the military, which ruled the country for nearly half a century before sharing some power with a civilian government, locked up hundreds of people, stripped away civil liberties for the entire population and steadfastly ignored the millions of protesters who have risen up against their seizure of power.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who led Myanmar’s democratic Opposition for decades, has not been seen publicly since soldiers grabbed her from her villa on February 1, but her smiling face has been omnipresent on posters and signs carrying by protesters during their daily rallies.
The trial, as with so many legal cases in Myanmar, was filled with anomalies. U Khin Maung Zaw, Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyer, was originally told the court proceedings would begin on Monday. Then he was led to believe it would be on Wednesday.
At 11am on Tuesday, he was suddenly notified that his client was appearing via video conference in a court in Naypyitaw, the capital. “The timing seems like they don’t want public attention in this case,” said Khin Maung Zaw, a veteran human-rights lawyer.
Khin Maung Zaw has been told that the next trial session will be on March 1.
China ‘not involved’
China’s ambassador to Myanmar said on Tuesday the current political situation was “absolutely not what China wants to see” and dismissed social media rumours of Chinese involvement in the military coup as “nonsense”.
New York Times News Service