Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi pleads not guilty to incitement as junta muzzles lawyers

Observers say barring her defense team from speaking to the media is undemocratic and illegal.

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi pleads not guilty to incitement as junta muzzles lawyers

Myanmar’s detained State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has pled not guilty to charges of public incitement, according to sources involved in the case, in a hearing that the junta has barred her legal team from discussing with the media, citing concerns that doing so could “destabilize the country.”

Tuesday marked the first chance for the Nobel laureate, 76, who was arrested on Feb. 1 when the army deposed her National League for Democracy (NLD) government in a coup, to defend herself at the special court in the capital Naypyidaw against charges under Section 505 (b) of Myanmar’s Penal Code, a source close to the proceedings told RFA’s Myanmar Service, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Details of the hearing were not immediately clear because the military barred all five lawyers on Aung San Suu Kyi’s legal team from speaking with the media under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Lawyers for former President Win Myint and Naypyidaw Mayor Myo Aung—both co-defendants in the case—said earlier this month that they had decided to defend themselves against the charges.

Khin Maung Myint, a Yangon-based high court lawyer, told RFA it is illegal for the military to keep the Aung San Suu Kyi’s case hidden from the public.

“A lawyer or any other person should be able to speak out about the developments of the case without a restraining order,” he said.

“If one criticizes the quality of the case or speaks disrespectfully of those involved or witnesses or the court, then the person can be prosecuted under the Contempt of Court Act. Otherwise, the issuance of Section 144, which deprives citizens of their right to information, is, in fact, unconstitutional.”

The decision to prevent Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyers from speaking with reporters follows an Oct. 12 hearing in which former President Win Myint told the court that the military forced him to step down from his post on the day of the coup while defending himself against charges under Section 505 (b).

Following the disclosure to the media about that hearing by defense lawyer Khin Maung Zaw, the junta barred four members of Win Myint’s legal team—Khin Maung Zaw, Thair Maung Maung, Kyi Win and Min Min Soe—from speaking outs about the case.

In August, another member of the defense team, San Marlar Nyunt, had been made by authorities in Yangon to sign a pledge not to conduct interviews or contact the media or any foreign organizations.

Veteran high court lawyer Kyee Myint told RFA that barring all lawyers from talking to the media was illegal and said the move amounted to blatant interference with the judiciary.

“The 2008 Constitution explicitly states that the legislative, the executive and judicial sectors must act separately,” he said.

“The judge of the court, in a reply to Aung San Suu Kyi, had said lawyers could talk about the hearings, and thus the executive branch’s order can be seen as interference.”

Junta spokesman Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun told RFA the ban was imposed because the lawyers’ statements “won’t contribute to the country’s stability.”

“There have been some exaggerations of the statements said in court—some cases seem to have been misrepresented,” he said.

“We have information teams to speak about legal cases, even at district level, and they will act accordingly when needed.”

‘Undemocratic, illegal moves’

However, lawyers and political observers disagreed with the junta’s reasoning.

Political analyst Than Soe Naing called the move “part of a political plot to imprison Aung San Suu Kyi and other top party leaders.”

“Politically speaking, [the junta is] determined to squash the NLD leadership, including Aung San Suu Kyi,” he said.

“Decisions are being made according to that line of thinking. They don’t have the legal right to do so, although they are still doing it. These are very undemocratic, illegal moves that are all politically motivated.”

Than Soe Naing said injustices committed for political purposes will continue as long as the military regime thrives.

Kyaw Thiha, a member of the NLD Central Committee, called the ban “a deliberate move.”

“They don’t want the words of Aung San Suu Kyi to be heard here. The president’s [recent] statements reaching outside have hurt them badly,” he said.

“They cannot handle the lawyers truthfully relaying the brave words [of the leaders] reaching the public. They are very afraid that the whole country will become unstable after learning the truth.”

Kyaw Thiha said the country is “headed for total annihilation” if the present situation continues because the military is “doing whatever it wants without any regard for democratic rights.”

Nearly nine months after the military’s Feb. 1 coup, security forces have killed 1,218 civilians and arrested at least 7,026, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners—mostly during crackdowns on anti-junta protests.

The junta says it unseated the NLD government because, they claimed, the party had engineered a landslide victory in Myanmar’s November 2020 election through widespread voter fraud. It has yet to present evidence of its claims and public unrest is at an all-time high.

Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday requested that the court hold hearings on the cases she faces every other week instead of weekly, citing ill health, but the judge refused her request.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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New UN Myanmar envoy prompts hope for breakthrough

Nolin Hezar will replace Christine Schraner Burgener, who was barred entry by the junta.

New UN Myanmar envoy prompts hope for breakthrough

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appointed Nolin Hezar as the new Special Envoy to Myanmar, and observers expressed optimism Wednesday that the Southeast Asian native’s fresh perspective could lead to a breakthrough in the country’s nine-month political crisis.

Hezar, a former U.N. Under-Secretary-General and a Singaporean, familiarized herself with Myanmar while chairing the U.N.’s Southeast Asia Regional Commission in the early 2000s. The 73-year-old former Special Adviser to the U.N. Secretary-General on Peacebuilding and Sustainable Development in Timor had visited Myanmar several times prior to 2010 to assist people affected by Cyclone Nargis.

She will replace outgoing Swiss diplomat Christine Schraner Burgener, who had held talks with leaders—including junta chief Min Aung Hlaing—on the sidelines of an emergency summit convened in Jakarta by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in April to address the situation in Myanmar amid crackdowns that followed the military’s Feb. 1 coup. A five-point consensus to end violence was agreed upon at that meeting which included giving a special envoy to Myanmar access to all political parties, but Schraner Burgener was ultimately barred from entering the country and will step down within the week.

The U.N. created the special envoy position in 2018 to address the plight of the Rohingya Muslims who were the target of a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state a year earlier, causing about 740,000 to flee to Bangladesh.

Moe Thuzar, a Southeast Asia expert, said Hezar—whose appointment was announced on Monday—is knowledgeable about the situation in Myanmar and the region in general, and believes she will be able to work with ASEAN to help resolve the political crisis that has unfolded in the nearly nine months since the military coup.

“Negotiations between ASEAN and the United Nations are still ongoing, and they should continue to coordinate with goodwill and in the interests of Myanmar,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

“This is not a path that ASEAN is taking alone, nor a path paved by the United Nations alone. We will have to work in tandem with the international community.”

Ye Tun, a former political analyst and lawmaker, said the appointment of a special envoy from Singapore—an ASEAN member—underscores the U.N.’s special focus on helping Myanmar transition from a military coup to a functioning democracy.

“A citizen from Singapore, an ASEAN member, will be able to focus more on our country. She might come up with more ideas,” he said.

“Our country has already been sanctioned by ASEAN and [Min Aung Hlaing] was not invited to the ASEAN Summit for failing to implement its recent agreements and resolutions. I think the U.N. is paying more attention to our issue now.”

Barred from summit

In an unprecedented move earlier this month, ASEAN foreign ministers barred Min Aung Hlaing from the virtual ASEAN summit that kicked off Tuesday in Bandar Seri Begawan, saying he backtracked on the consensus that he had agreed to during the emergency meeting in April.

The snub was widely seen as an embarrassment to the junta, which on Tuesday issued a statement saying it was choosing not to attend because ASEAN had denied the military government representation.

Bo Hla Tint, the newly appointed special envoy to ASEAN for Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG), told RFA that further options for an envoy should be considered in case the military bars Hezar from visiting Myanmar.

“The former special envoys couldn’t do anything when the military refused them entry into the country,” he said.

“There won’t be any significant results just by appointing a new special envoy without a Plan B. If this is a preparatory move because there is word the junta might act along the five-point ASEAN agreement, we will have to wait and see.”

Junta spokesman Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun told RFA that if Hezar “acts impartially and fairly,” the military will cooperate with her, in accordance with U.N. conventions, but would “not accept any action taken with a political motive.”

“I want to say that it would be acceptable if [she] looks at the situation from all angles and acts in a balanced way,” he said.

“Otherwise, I would just say that it’d be difficult to make progress if they act with a political goal in mind as they had done in the past.”

Military cooperation essential

Aung Myo Min, human rights minister for Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government, said the special envoy could be more effective at resolving the crisis because she is from an ASEAN nation, but added that she will not be able to succeed in her mission without the military’s cooperation.

“ASEAN’s changing stance [on Myanmar], cooperation with the West, and regional actions are all important and these factors would enable her to play a more active role,” he said.

“However, no matter how effectively she carries out her work, if the military is not really willing to solve the problem, she will not be very successful.”

Nearly nine months after the military’s Feb. 1 coup, security forces have killed 1,218 civilians and arrested at least 7,026, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners—mostly during crackdowns on anti-junta protests.

The junta says it unseated the National League for Democracy government because, they claimed, the party had engineered a landslide victory in Myanmar’s November 2020 election through widespread voter fraud. It has yet to present evidence of its claims and public unrest is at an all-time high.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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