Myanmar’s overthrown leader Aung San Suu Kyi is set to face new charges of corruption from the generals who seized power in a coup on February 1, as protesters fighting to restore democracy face increasing isolation behind a mobile data blackout.
The 75-year-old Nobel laureate, who was taken into custody along with other top aides as the military took control of the country, has already been charged with owning unlicensed walkie-talkies and violating coronavirus restrictions.
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On Wednesday night, the military broadcaster Myawady aired a video of a Myanmar businessman confessing to giving her a total of $550,000 over several years.
Maung Weik, a property developer, said he had donated money to senior government figures for the good of his business.
“Aung San Suu Kyi committed corruption and (authorities) are preparing to charge her according to anti-corruption law,” an announcer said during the broadcast.
This is not the first time corruption allegations have been lodged against her.
Last week a military spokesman said a now-detained chief minister had admitted to giving her $600,000 and more than 10 kilogrammes (22 pounds) of gold bars.
Her lawyers have dismissed the allegations.
“Those accusations are groundless and illogical,” Suu Kyi’s lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told AFP news agency.
“Aung San Suu Kyi may have her defects… but bribery and corruption are not her traits,” he said, adding that most people in Myanmar would not believe the allegations.
Myanmar has been plunged into chaos by the military’s move to seize power, as hundreds of thousands of people refuse to work and others take to the streets in a mass civil disobedience movement to restore democracy and secure the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other elected leaders.
The generals have justified their power grab by alleging electoral fraud in elections last November that were won by the National League for Democracy (NLD), Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, in a landslide.
Increasing violence, internet blackout
Security forces have responded to the protests with increasing violence.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which has been tracking arrests and fatalities since the coup, says at least 217 people have been killed in the protests.
On Wednesday, the country’s powerful Buddhist monks’ association urged an end to the violence and accused an “armed minority” of torture and killings of innocent civilians.
In condemnation of the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, the government-appointed organisation also said in a draft statement that its members intended to halt activities, the Myanmar Now news agency reported.
The military has also attempted to restrict communication and the flow of information.
An overnight internet blackout has been in force for 32 nights, while this week the military started blocking mobile phone data, making it increasingly challenging for the protest movement to organise or share photographs and video of unfolding events.
Access to WiFi in public areas was largely shut off by Thursday.
Residents of some towns, including Dawei in the south, reported having no internet at all.
Non-state media has also come under pressure.
Just weeks ago, this Yangon newsstand was heaving with publications; now only a couple of obscure weeklies remain. Myanmar’s major news outlets have mostly been banned or folded under a range of pressures, and a mobile internet blackout excludes most citizens from online news. pic.twitter.com/TJyhvkeSMX
— Ben Dunant (@BenedictDunant) March 18, 2021
Under cover of mobile data block in #Myanmar, reports of more killings emerge. Brutal military may turn off the internet, but our voice calling for our rights, freedom & federal democracy will not be silenced! #KeepItOn #HearOurVoices #WhatsHappeningInMyanmar #MyanmarCoup https://t.co/blfAn3NvzU
— Justice For Myanmar (@JusticeMyanmar) March 18, 2021
While authorities have ordered some newspapers to shut, others have apparently been forced to close for logistical reasons. The last private newspaper stopped publishing on Wednesday.
Some 37 journalists have been arrested, including 19 who remain in detention, the United Nations’ human rights office in Geneva said on Tuesday.