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Myanmar’s Suu Kyi Makes First Public Appearance Since February 1 Coup


FILE - Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi waits for the arrival of her delegation before the Japan Myanmar Summit meeting with Japan's Prime Minster Shinzo Abe (not pictured).

Aung San Suu Kyi appeared in court Monday, her first public appearance since she and other members of Myanmar’s civilian government were removed from office and detained by the military on Feb. 1.

A lawyer for the 75-year-old Suu Kyi said the ousted de facto leader looked well as she appeared via videoconference in the capital, Naypyitaw. The lawyer says prosecutors charged her with two new crimes during the court session -- attempting to incite public unrest and violating a section of the telecommunications law operating equipment without a license.

Suu Kyi was already charged with illegally importing and using six unregistered walkie-talkie radios found during a search of her home, and for breaking the country’s natural disaster law by holding public gatherings in violation of COVID-19 protocols.

Meanwhile, security forces fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse demonstrators in Yangon Monday, a day after 18 people across Myanmar were killed and more than 30 others injured in the deadliest day of demonstrations since the coup, according to the United Nations Human Rights Office.

Witnesses to Sunday’s bloody protests say police used tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannon and in some cases live ammunition in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city. According to the Associated Press, photos of shell cases from live ammunition were posted on social media. Media videos show demonstrators dragging some of those injured away from the protests, leaving bloody smears on pavement.

Police also aggressively sought to break up protests in other cities, including Mandalay and Dawei.

"Throughout the day, in several locations throughout the country, police and military forces have confronted peaceful demonstrations, using lethal force and less-than-lethal force,” said a statement from U.N. human rights office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani.

The statement called on the military to “immediately halt the use of force against peaceful protesters.”

Later Sunday, the U.N. special rapporteur, Tom Andrews, released a statement that listed options for U.N. member states and the security council to take action.

“As the military junta of Myanmar ratchets up its violence against the people, I believe it is imperative that the international community ratchet up its response,” Andrews said.

Among the options laid out in his statement are a global arms embargo, sanctions against businesses owned or controlled by the junta, and the convening of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the issue. On sanctions, Andrews urged countries that have already established some to “immediately consider more.”

The United States late Sunday condemned the bloody crackdown on protests and hinted at potential sanctions.

“We condemn the Burmese security forces’ abhorrent violence against the people of Burma & will continue to promote accountability for those responsible,” tweeted Secretary of State Antony Blinken, referring to Myanmar’s former name. “We stand firmly with the courageous people of Burma & encourage all countries to speak with one voice in support of their will.”

“We are preparing additional actions to impose further costs on those responsible for this latest outbreak of violence and the recent coup. We will have more to share in the coming days,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.

Popular protests have been staged across Myanmar on a daily basis since the military overthrew the civilian government, claiming widespread fraud in last November’s election, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won in a landslide.

The European Union condemned violence against protesters Sunday, calling security forces shooting unarmed citizens a “blatant disregard for international law.”

“The military authorities must immediately stop the use of force against civilians and allow the population to express their right to freedom of expression and assembly,” EU Minister of Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said in a statement.

Last week, junta commander Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said the military was using “minimal force” to deal with protests. But at least 21 protesters have been confirmed killed during demonstrations, and the army has said one policeman has been killed.

The junta has declared a one-year state of emergency. Min Aung Hlaing has pledged that new elections will be held to bring about a "true and disciplined democracy,” but did not specify when they would take place.

Myanmar’s electoral commission denied the military’s claims of election fraud.

The United States and other Western nations have demanded the release of Suu Kyi and her lieutenants and called on the junta to restore power to the civilian government.

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