Myanmar's ousted leader Suu Kyi charged with 'illegally importing walkie-talkies'

A protester holds an image of Aung San Suu Kyi outside the United Nations building in Bangkok on February 3, 2021.
A protester holds an image of Aung San Suu Kyi outside the United Nations building in Bangkok on February 3, 2021. © Jack Taylor, AFP
10 min

Myanmar's ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi will be detained for questioning until February 15 after police pressed charges against the former democracy icon on Wednesday for illegally importing communications equipment.

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Myanmar's army seized power on Monday, detaining Nobel laureate Suu Kyi and cutting short a transition to democracy in a takeover that has drawn condemnation from the United States and other Western countries.

A police request to a court detailing the accusations against 75-year-old Nobel laureate Suu Kyi said walkie-talkie radios had been found in a search of her home in the capital, Naypyidaw. It said the radios were imported illegally and used without permission.

The document requested Suu Kyi's detention "in order to question witnesses, request evidence and seek legal counsel after questioning the defendant".

A separate document showed police filed charges against ousted President Win Myint for offences under the Disaster Management Law.

A spokesperson from Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) confirmed the charges in a Facebook post. 

"We have got reliable information that Dakhinathiri court has given a 14-day remand from February 1 to February 15 against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi under the charge of violating the import/export law," Kyi Toe, the NLD's press officer, wrote on his official Facebook page. 

Suu Kyi endured about 15 years of house arrest between 1989 and 2010 as she led the country's democracy movement and she remains hugely popular at home despite damage to her international reputation over the flight of Muslim Rohingya refugees in 2017.

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China thwarts UN action

Army chief Min Aung Hlaing seized power on Monday on the grounds of alleged fraud in the November 8 election, which the NLD won in a landslide. The electoral commission had said the vote was fair.

The army's actions have been met with a growing chorus of international condemnation, although the options are limited for those nations hoping Myanmar's generals might reverse course.

On Tuesday, the US State Department formally designated the takeover as a coup, meaning the US cannot assist Myanmar's government. 

However, any impact will be mainly symbolic as almost all assistance goes to non-government entities and Myanmar's military was already under US sanctions over its brutal campaign against the Rohingya minority.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the European Union and several other nations have also spoken out.

The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting Tuesday but failed to agree on a statement condemning the coup as China, Myanmar's main supporter, vetoed any such move.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP, AP)

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