Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi faces new charge amid fresh violence
New corruption charge announced as military forces launch new attack by burning down as many as 400 houses in northwestern Sagaing region.
Myanmar’s military government has filed an eleventh corruption charge against removed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the latest in a variety of indictments against the Nobel laureate who faces more than 150 years in prison.
The new case was announced on Thursday, as the military reportedly launched fresh attacks on the civilian population in the northwestern Sagaing region, with troops allegedly burning up to 400 houses, forcing thousands of residents to flee.
Police filed a further corruption charge against Aung San Suu Kyi for allegedly receiving $550,000 as a donation for a charity foundation named after her mother, the military’s information team said in a statement.
The statement gave no details on when court proceedings would begin.
Aung San Suu Kyi, 76, has been detained since the February 1 coup last year that triggered mass protests and a bloody crackdown on dissent with more than 1,500 civilians killed, according to a local monitoring group.
She has already been sentenced to six years in jail for incitement against the military, breaching COVID-19 rules and breaking a telecommunications law – although she will remain under house arrest while she fights other charges.
Each corruption charge carries a possible 15-year jail term.
Aung San Suu Kyi is already on trial for breaching the official secrets act – where she is accused alongside detained Australian academic Sean Turnell – as well as several other corruption-related charges.
This week the military government announced she will face a further trial beginning mid-February on charges of influencing the country’s election commission during 2020 polls that saw her party defeat a military-aligned rival.
‘Turned into ash’
Resistance to the coup since last year has triggered more violence from the military.
On Thursday, reports have emerged of government forces burning down hundreds of houses this week in two villages in the northwestern part of the country, apparently while searching for members of an armed anti-coup militia.
Residents of Mwe Tone village told the Associated Press (AP) news agency on Thursday that 200 of the 250 homes there were razed by fire, together with nearly 200 of the 800 houses in nearby Pan village in the Sagaing region. Similar numbers were reported by Myanmar media.
“As a farmer, I saved money for 15 years to build a house, and all that was left of my house was ashes. Not only my house but the whole village was turned into ash,” said a 29-year-old Mwe Tone villager, speaking on condition of anonymity because he feared reprisal from authorities.
“Now, we have nothing to eat or live with.”
Photos showed water pumps, tractors and vehicles destroyed by the blaze, with farm animals also falling victim.
Radio Free Asia’s Myanmar service also reported the same attacks in the northwestern region, and said that as many as 10,000 were forced to flee their homes.
Myanmar’s army has a reputation for using arson as one of its tactics in counterinsurgency operations.
Troops in Myanmar’s embattled Sagaing region burned down more than 400 homes in two villages they accuse of providing a haven for anti-junta forces, forcing an estimated 10,000 civilians to flee, residents said.https://t.co/aPsCpTiCkp
— Radio Free Asia (@RadioFreeAsia) February 3, 2022
Troops are believed to have burned down as many as 200 villages in a brutal 2017 campaign in western Rakhine state that drove more than 700,000 Muslim Rohingya villagers to seek safety across the border in Bangladesh.
The army has been accused of crimes against humanity and genocide for its actions against the Rohingya, which also included the killings and rapes of civilians.
In their current campaign against opponents of military rule, they have again been accused of razing homes and carrying out massacres of civilians.
The government’s tactics have also caused a huge humanitarian crisis, with upwards of 300,000 people nationwide displaced from their homes, and the conflict often preventing assistance from reaching them.
‘The army is killing everyone’
A villager from Pan, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear of retaliation, said he believed the troops had been searching for members of a local militia that had been established to protect against government attacks.
He said, however, that there had been no clashes in the immediate area that might have triggered Monday’s military action. In previous similar incidents elsewhere, government soldiers acted in apparent retaliation for attacks by resistance forces.
A Mwe Tone resident said that she and seven neighbours, who were unable to flee before the soldiers took over, were captured, with several beaten and abused.
The 45-year-old woman told AP by phone that the soldiers told them that Mwe Tone is known for supporting members of the People’s Defence Force — armed resistance groups also known by their acronym PDF — and the village would be torched that night.
Two of the Mwe Tone residents said the troops also engaged in looting, including stealing a 200-year-old, 15cm-tall (6-inch-tall) gold Buddha image with an embedded ruby from the village monastery.
The government has not issued any reports about the incident.
However, the state-run Myanma Alinn Daily newspaper claimed that 200 houses of Ma Htee village, about 15 kilometres (9 miles) west of Mwe Tone and Pan villages, were burned by members of a resistance defence force during fighting with army troops on Sunday.
Satellite images from the company Planet Labs showed about a third of the village had been damaged at about that time.
The Mwe Tone villagers said helicopters came to pick up the soldiers early on Tuesday morning, but residents of both villages were still fearful about their return.
“I want to say to international governments that if you are still standing and looking without taking any action against the military, Myanmar will soon be reduced to ashes,” said the villager from Pan.
“The people have nowhere to run and the army is killing everyone.”