Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi appeared in a court hearing via video link and was hit with a third charge on Monday, as anti-coup protesters rallied across the country again in defiance of a security force crackdown that killed at least 18 people the previous day.
The 75-year-old looked healthy as she took part in the court hearing from the capital, Naypyitaw, and asked to see her legal team, lawyer Min Min Soe told Reuters news agency.
The leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), which swept last November’s now- anulled election, has not been seen in public since her detention on February 1, when the the military seized power alleging widespread electoral fraud.
Shortly after, she was charged with illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios as well as violating a natural disaster law by staging a campaign rally during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, a third charge was added under a section of the colonial-era penal code prohibiting the publication of information that may “cause fear or alarm” or disrupt “public tranquillity”, Min Min Soe said.
The next hearing will be on March 15.
Police fired teargas and stun grenades to disperse more than 300 demonstrators near the Sin Yay Twin bus stop on Yangon’s Insein Road at 10:45am. The protesters have retreated north to Butar Yone bus stop. Local residents are helping teargas victims.#WhatsHappeningInMyanmar pic.twitter.com/TESzaORqUu
— Frontier Myanmar (@FrontierMM) March 1, 2021
— Myanmar Now (@Myanmar_Now_Eng) March 1, 2021
Aung San Suu Kyi’s court appearance came as police in Yangon fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse protesters gathered at multiple locations across the city.
Many of the protesters wore hard hats, while those at the frontlines carried makeshift shields to protect themselves from security forces, who killed at least four people in Yangon and wounded dozens more the previous day.
In Yangon’s Kyauktada township, one protester was seen blacking out security cameras, while in other parts of the city, demonstrators taped to the ground hundreds of pictures of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, bearing the words: “Shame on you, dictator, we will never forgive you.”
Crowds also marched in the second city of Mandalay, while live video on Facebook showed a small crowd of protesters gathered across a street in Lashio, Shan State, chanting slogans as police marched towards them.
Myanmar has been in chaos since the February 1 coup, which brought a halt to the country’s tentative steps towards democracy after nearly 50 years of military rule. It has drawn hundreds of thousands of demonstrators onto the streets for more than three weeks.
On Sunday, clashes took place in various parts of the country and police opened fire on crowds in Yangon after tear gas and warning shots failed to clear protesters demanding the restoration of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government. Some of the security forces belonged to units notorious for tough crackdowns on ethnic rebel groups.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said at least 270 people had been detained on Sunday, from a total of 1,132 it said had been arrested, charged or sentenced since the coup. Sunday’s arrests included one journalist, who was beaten in northern Myitkyina, Kachin State, according to local outlet The 74 Media.
Several journalists documenting assaults by security forces on Saturday were also detained, including an Associated Press photographer in Yangon.
The United States has led global condemnation of Myanmar’s military rulers, imposing limited sanctions on the generals. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned Sunday’s crackdown as “abhorrent”, while Canada’s foreign minister, Marc Garneau, said the military’s use of lethal force against its own people was “appalling”. Both called for a united response.
Tom Andrews, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar said it was clear the military’s assault on protesters would continue so the international community should ratchet up its response.
He proposed a global arms embargo, more sanctions from more countries on those behind the coup, sanctions on the military’s businesses and a UN Security Council referral to the International Criminal Court.
“Words of condemnation are welcome but insufficient. We must act,” Andrews said in a statement.
“The nightmare in Myanmar that is unfolding before our eyes will get worse. The world must act.”