Detained Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi was charged with possessing illegal walkie-talkies on Wednesday days after the military launched a coup and plunged the country back into the dark days of junta rule.
Suu Kyi’s party confirmed that Myanmar police charged the 75-year-old leader with breaching the obscure import/export act after authorities supposedly found the devices in her home during a search.
Close ally and ousted President Win Myint, who was also arrested in a pre-dawn raid Monday as the military swiftly took power, was accused of breaking coronavirus rules when traveling around the country to meet supporters.
The charge is the latest stunning twist in the extraordinarily dramatic life of Suu Kyi, who went from human rights icon to atrocity apologist over her defense of a violent 2017 campaign against Rohingya Muslims.
Now she is back where she started decades ago, under house arrest with no clear future. Another member of her party wrote on Facebook that Suu Kyi and Win Myint had been remanded into custody, but their whereabouts are unknown and they have not made any public statements.
The military declared a one-year state of emergency and installed former general and current vice-president Myint Swe as president, deferring power to commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) was able to replicate its success in 2015 polls during November’s 2020 general election, but the military cried foul over alleged irregularities even as international observers dismissed the claims.
The experience of detention under the junta will be tragically familiar. Suu Kyi spent a combined 15 years under house arrest as a foe of the former military regime before being released in 2010 and embarking on a career as a politician and later leader of the country.
She remains hugely popular in Myanmar but her reputation abroad is in tatters over her inability or unwillingness to try and stop the violence against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.
Under her administration two journalists for Reuters were jailed for exposing a massacre of Rohingya by security forces. She later defended the military at The Hague, arguing that genocide was not committed against the stateless minority during the 2017 operations.
Those sacrifices do not appear to have mattered much to the man accused of overseeing the Rohingya crackdown, Min Aung Hlaing, who is now in charge of the country. The military plans to hold elections again but it is unclear how they will be accepted without Suu Kyi’s participation.
Charles Santiago, a member of Asian Parliamentarians for Human Rights, called the recent charges “ludicrous.”
"This is an absurd move by the junta to try to legitimize their illegal power grab from Myanmar's democratically-elected government. This does nothing except rub further salt into the wounds of the millions who voted for the NLD in November."