More protests in Myanmar as ousted president faces 2 new charges

Protests against a military coup in Myanmar showed no sign of abating with more planned across the country on Wednesday (Mar 3), while Myanmar’s ousted President Win Myint is said to be facing two new charges.

Security forces fired warning shots into the air as protesters gathered at one site in the commercial capital Yangon early on Wednesday, according to a journalist at the scene.

At least 21 people have been killed since the Feb 1 coup and police opened fire to break up crowds again on Tuesday.

An activist in Chin State said strikes were taking place in nearly all of its townships on Wednesday.

A group tracking arrests said dozens more people may have been detained on Tuesday, including a protest organiser who it said was taken away at gunpoint by security personnel in unmarked cars.

Win Myint’s lawyer Khin Maung Zaw on Wednesday said he is facing two new charges, including over a breach of the constitution that is punishable by up to three years in prison.

Win Myint was arrested on Feb 1 along with Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi just hours before the military seized power in a coup. Win Myint is also facing charges over violating protocols to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said Win Myint’s trial date is not known.

Myanmar President Win Myint has also been detained, according to the National League for Democracy

Myanmar President Win Myint has also been detained, according to the National League for Democracy AFP/Thet AUNG

The military government has also charged Aung San Suu Kyi with several offences that critics say are trumped up merely to keep her jailed and potentially prevent her from participating in the election promised in a year’s time by the military.

ASEAN DIPLOMATIC EFFORT

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) failed to make any breakthrough in a virtual meeting on Myanmar by its 10 foreign ministers. While they were united over call for restraint, only four members – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore – called for the release of detainees including Suu Kyi.

“We expressed ASEAN’s readiness to assist Myanmar in a positive, peaceful and constructive manner,” said a statement by the ASEAN chair Brunei.

Myanmar’s state media on Wednesday said the military-appointed foreign minister attended an ASEAN meeting that “exchanged views on regional and international issues”, but made no mention of the purpose of the talks.

It said Wunna Maung Lwin “apprised the meeting of voting irregularities” in last November’s election.

READ: Myanmar military’s use of lethal force ‘disastrous’, but sense can still prevail: PM Lee

READ: Southeast Asian nations urge halt to violence in Myanmar

The military justified the coup saying its complaints of voter fraud were ignored. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won the election by a landslide, earning a second five year term. The election commission said the vote was fair.

Junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has said the intervention was to protect Myanmar’s fledgling democracy and has pledged to hold new elections, but has given no time frame.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday said the coup is “an enormous tragic step back” for Myanmar, and the arrests and charging of Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership would not solve the problem.

“You really have to get back, release Aung San Suu Kyi, negotiate with her and her team, and work out a peaceful way forward for Myanmar,” he said during a recording of an interview with the BBC. The interview transcript was provided by Singapore’s Ministry of Communications and Information.

“THE REVOLUTION MUST SUCCEED”

Tuesday’s evening news bulletin on Myanmar state television said agitators were mobilising people on social media and forming “illegal organisations”.

It said tear gas, stun guns grenades and electrical charges were used to disperse crowds in Yangon and 12 rioters were arrested.

Protests against the military coup, in Yangon

People sit on a street during a protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, March 2, 2021 in this still image from video obtained by REUTERS.

After dark in parts of Yangon, people came to their balconies to chant anti-military slogans, including “the revolution must succeed”. Others banged pots and pans loudly in a nightly ritual of defiance.

Ye Myo Hein, a researcher and founder of Burma Studies Center, said security forces had fired shots in the streets to discourage people from taking part, but a few persisted.

“Afterwards, a volley of pans rattling and drum beating filled the air around our neighbourhood,” Ye Myo Hein posted on Facebook.

READ: Row over who represents coup-hit Myanmar at UN

READ: ASEAN must reiterate guiding principles when it comes to situation in Myanmar – Vivian Balakrishnan

Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, has been held incommunicado since the coup but appeared at a court hearing via video conferencing this week and looked in good health, a lawyer said.

She is one of nearly 1,300 people who have been detained, according to activists, among them six journalists in Yangon, one of whom works for the Associated Press, which has called for his release.

Myanmar’s representative to the United Nations – appointed by Aung San Suu Kyi last year – denounced the coup. After the junta announced he had been fired, he staked a formal claim as the legitimate representative, according to letters seen by Reuters.

ASEAN’s meeting drew criticism from inside Myanmar, with concerns it would legitimise the junta and not help the country.

Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi urged Myanmar to “open its doors” to ASEAN efforts to ease tensions, but said there was little it could do if it did not.

Echoing the position of most Western countries, the Philippines’ Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin called for “the complete return to the previously existing state of affairs”.

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