Aung San Suu Kyi vows her party will ‘exist as long as people support it’

Aung San Suu Kyi appeared in court on Monday for the first time since Myanmar’s military coup, and declared that her National League for Democracy party would “exist as long as people support it”. 

Myanmar media reported last week that the junta-appointed Union Election Commission had decided to dissolve the NLD, the country’s dominant political force during its decades-long struggle against past military regimes.

The party won the 2015 vote that brought Aung San Suu Kyi to power and last year’s election, after which the military made unfounded accusations of voter fraud that they used to justify the coup.

Junta officials allowed Myanmar’s deposed civilian leader to meet her lawyers for the first time on Monday since she was arrested at her home shortly before General Min Aung Hlaing seized power on February 1. 

The 75-year-old former leader faces trial for violating Myanmar’s official secrets act and five other charges, including accepting bribes, illegally importing walkie-talkies and breaking Covid-19 rules during last year’s election campaign. Until now, she appeared in court via video link only and was barred from meeting her lawyers. 

Criminal convictions would prevent her from holding power again.

Khin Maung Zaw, a member of her legal team, told the Financial Times that lawyers had been asked to go to Zabuthiri police station in the capital Naypyidaw at 8am.

From there, police led the lawyers to see first Myanmar’s deposed leader, then President Win Myint, who was also arrested on February 1, at a building in the Naypyidaw Council compound. 

“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said that half an hour is not sufficient for all six cases [charges], and urged us lawyers to ask the presiding judge to make another meeting available,” Khin Maung Zaw told the FT. “We discussed the cases, and what line of defence we should take.” 

At a courtroom in another part of the same building, the presiding judge adjourned the cases until June 7.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been absent from public view apart from video links in court since her arrest but Min Aung Hlaing, the junta leader, said in an interview published at the weekend that she was “in good health” at her home in Naypyidaw.

A mass civil disobedience movement has taken the leading role in opposing Myanmar’s ruling generals, staging protests and work walkouts that have paralysed the economy. They have urged foreign governments and companies to starve the regime of revenue sources.

Junta forces have responded with lethal force, killing more than 800 people and imprisoning more than 4,000, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a human rights group. The UN Security Council has called for the junta to free Aung San Suu Kyi and others imprisoned since the coup. 

Follow on Twitter: @JohnReedwrites

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