It’s been 65 days since the Myanmar military seized power from the democratically elected government of country leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup that has evolved into the savage repression of largely peaceful protesters who oppose the junta. In the early days of the power grab, security forces arrested several government leaders, including the state counselor, President Win Myint, lawmakers, and state and regional officials from the ruling National League for Democracy.
Under the State Administrative Council, as the military government is known, authorities have brought several charges, widely viewed as trumped-up, against Aung San Suu Kyi. She was hit with a new legal charge under the Official Secrets Act on April 1, her first online arraignment in cases brought by the junta that overthrew her government on Feb. 1. That same day, she was arraigned on four other charges for alleged incitement and sedition, violation of telecommunication laws, possession of unlicensed walkie-talkie radios, and violation of the Natural Disaster Management Law for breaching COVID-19 pandemic restrictions during the 2020 election campaign.
Myanmar legal expert Kyee Myint, a High Court lawyer not involved in any of the cases against Aung San Suu Kyi, says the military coup violated the country’s 2008 constitution drafted by another army junta that formerly ruled the country. He spoke with RFA’s Myanmar Service about the current junta’s arbitrary arrest of the state counselor and others — officials and civilians — who opposed the coup. Kyee Myint, who is chairman of the Union Attorney and Legal Aid Association, expressed disappointment with the lawlessness that has overtaken Myanmar and with the collapse of democratic institutions in the developing country.
RFA: From a legal point of view, what is your take on the five charges against Aung San Suu Kyi?
Kyee Myint: It is a show of force. The military has already taken over state power. They said they seized power in accordance with the 2008 constitution, but it couldn’t be carried out like that. And now that we have no laws in the country, it is a waste of time to talk about legal issues. We are now in a lawless state. All those charges made against Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint are not really lawful.
RFA: How do you think these charges will affect Aung San Suu Kyi’s political career?
Kyee Myint: As Boyoke [General Aung San’s] daughter, Daw [honorific] Aung San Suu Kyi would not do anything illegal. She may not be 100-percent perfect in carrying out her duties and responsibilities. It is a one-sided move to seize power at gunpoint from a leader elected by the population. Even though they are saying the military coup was in accordance with the 2008 constitution, it is not so. Frankly speaking, Myanmar is now a lawless country. Everyone seems to be in danger from the military armed with the nation’s finances. People now have no security either at day or at night. At which court are we going to carry out our work when the judge is a military officer or somebody appointed by or working for the military? It is better for us not to talk about the law in Myanmar at all. For us, even to talk about the law, I am very ashamed.
RFA: How long could Aung San Suu Kyi spend in jail if convicted of all the charges brought against her?
Kyee Myint: It could be up to 20 years or so. They might say they are going to be lenient because she is the Bogyoke’s daughter and ask her to bow out of the country’s political scene. But we shouldn’t be thinking that far ahead because the unity of the entire population is really huge, and I don’t think we should be worrying that much.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.