Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday voiced defiance in her first public comments since being put under house arrest on February 1, the day of Myanmar’s military coup.
In her first in-person court appearance after a series of online hearings, the ousted civilian leader vowed that the National League for Democracy, which risks being dissolved by the junta-appointed election commission, would “exist as long as the people exist”.
Myanmar has been in uproar since the February 1 putsch, with near-daily protests and a nationwide civil disobedience movement. More than 800 people have been killed by the military, according to local monitoring group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
The Nobel laureate, whose party won another landslide victory in the general election in November last year, sounded “healthy and fully confident” at the court, her lawyer Min Min Soe told AFP.
“She said she was praying for everyone to get well. She said the party was formed for the people, so it will exist as long as the people exist,” the lawyer added.
Aung San Suu Kyi has been hit with a string of criminal charges including flouting coronavirus restrictions during last year’s election campaign and possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies.
There was a heavy security presence in the capital Naypyidaw, an AFP correspondent said, with police trucks blocking off the road to the special court improvised inside the Nay Pyi Taw Council office.
Aung San Suu Kyi had faced weeks of delays to her legal case and her lawyers had struggled to gain access to their client.
The next hearing was set for June 7, Min Min Soe said, adding she had also met with the ousted president U Win Myint, who was also detained on February 1.
‘Everything she can’
Junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing gave a two-hour interview to Hong Kong’s Phoenix Television last week, with the full programme yet to air, though portions have been released.
Asked about Aung San Suu Kyi’s political achievements, the military leader said: “In short, she has done everything she can.”
A group of ousted lawmakers, mostly from the NLD, have joined with ethnic leaders to form a “National Unity Government” to undermine the junta. The junta, in turn, has classified the group as “terrorists”.
In a separate interview excerpt, Min Aung Hlaing disputed the death toll among anti-coup protesters and said the junta was not ready to adopt a consensus brokered by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to halt violence.
The continuing violence has pushed some in the anti-junta movement to form militias armed largely with homemade weapons to fight back against the security forces. Several of these groups have declared themselves chapters of the People’s Defence Force, an embryonic national resistance army.
Sunday saw heavy fighting in Kayah and southern Shan states between junta forces and combined groups of fighters from a local PDF chapter and the Karenni National Progressive Party, an ethnic armed group based in Kayah.
The military used tanks, mortars and helicopters in fighting which continued into Sunday night, according to a senior KNPP leader.
Four people taking refuge in a church near the Kayah capital Loikaw were killed in army shelling, according to media and a spokesperson for a local group coordinating evacuations from the area.