The Burmese junta has launched new corruption charges against Aung San Suu Kyi, who could be excluded from political life if found guilty, and maintains its grip on several cities in the country gripped by fierce repression on Thursday.
The death toll is growing every day, with more than 200 dead since the military coup of February 1. At least seven people were killed by security forces on Wednesday, according to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners (AAPP).
The soldiers are more than ever determined to put an end to the pro-democracy protest which has been blowing over the country since the coup d’état with daily demonstrations and strikes by many civil servants (teachers, doctors, railway workers …).
They also tighten their pressure on the ex-leader Aung San Suu Kyi, kept in secret.
State television broadcast a video on Wednesday evening of a controversial businessman confessing that he paid him $ 550,000 in installments between 2018 and 2020. “According to this testimony, authorities have detected that Aung San Suu Kyi was guilty of bribery and are preparing to indict him, “MRTV said.
“These new accusations are baseless and absurd,” his lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, told AFP on Thursday. “My client” may have flaws, but corrupting people is not in her nature (…) most Burmese won’t believe it. “
Arrested in the coup, 75-year-old Aung San Suu Kyi has already been charged four times: for illegally importing walkie-talkies, violating coronavirus restrictions, violating a telecommunications law and inciting to public disturbances.
Last week, the military announced it was opening a corruption investigation, initially accusing it of illegally collecting $ 600,000 and more than 11 kilograms of gold.
State organ Global New Light of Myanmar on Thursday reported an investigation into accusations of undervalued rents for land used by the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, which Aung San Suu Kyi established under his mother’s name.
If she is found guilty of the facts with which she is accused, the winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize faces long years in prison and could be excluded from political life.
His party, the National League for Democracy (LND), won overwhelmingly the legislative elections in November. But the generals alleged “huge” electoral fraud to justify their putsch, international observers failing to detect major problems.
More than 200 dead
Scattered gatherings were held Thursday across the country, especially in Natmauk, the birthplace of the father of Aung San Suu Kyi, hero of Burmese independence. Hundreds of officials marched in Mandalay and protesters including students in Myangyan.
On the site of one of the ancient Pyu cities, classified as World Heritage by Unesco, in the Ayeyarwady basin (Irrawady), demonstrators put up posters with calls like “end of the dictatorship in Burma” and “help us, stop the crime against humanity”.
But the crowds were small for fear of reprisals. 217 protesters have been killed by security forces since February 1, according to AAPP.
“The tactics of repression are increasingly violent”, deplores the Burmese NGO. The army and the police now fire “everywhere with live ammunition, without reason, even against people who do not demonstrate. Children and women are also targeted.”
As of Thursday, several districts of Rangoon remained in the grip of violent tensions.
Even going out to buy food has become dangerous because there is a risk of falling on patrols, said a resident of the economic capital of Burma. “All our dreams (of democracy) have vanished.”
The security forces “threaten to shoot at residents who do not remove the barricades” erected by the demonstrators, said a doctor from the east of the city.
The day before in Yangon, a demonstrator was shot dead in the head and two men shot dead in the industrial suburb of Hlaing Tharyar, the scene of the bloodiest day of repression since the putsch on Sunday, with dozens of deaths.
Soldiers and police torch and loot houses, destroying public works such as bridges, according to the AAPP.
The country, which opened up over the past ten years after decades of isolation under previous military dictatorships, is closing in.
Internet connections are increasingly limited and access to independent sources of information is becoming scarce. All private newspapers in the country have stopped their publication since the putsch for logistical reasons or forced by the authorities.
Two of Yangon’s approximately five million inhabitants are subject to martial law. They risk being returned, if arrested, to military courts with a minimum sentence of three years of hard labor.
Enforced disappearances, murders, torture: Thomas Andrews, the main independent expert appointed by the United Nations on this issue, denounced before the Human Rights Council probable “crimes against humanity”.
Nearly 2,200 people have been arrested over the past six weeks, many of whom are being held incommunicado. Hundreds of people are thus missing, alerted the UN.
Solicited, the army, which ignores the multiple international condemnations and the sanctions put in place by several Western powers – the United States and the European Union in the lead -, did not respond to AFP’s requests for comment .