Suu Kyi hit with new charge
She asks court to let her meet lawyers; activists urge defiance
YANGON, Apr 12: Myanmar's ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was hit with a fresh criminal charge on Monday, as the junta's tough crackdown on dissent rolls on.
The 75-year-old Nobel laureate has not been seen in public since being detained in the early hours of February 1 as the military deposed her government and seized power.
Suu Kyi asked a court on Monday to be allowed to meet her lawyers in person as she appeared at a hearing via video link to face charges brought by the military junta that could see her jailed for years.
Suu Kyi, 75, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her efforts to bring democracy to Myanmar, has been detained since the coup and charges with various offences including violating a colonial-era official secrets act that could see her jailed for 14 years.
She has only been allowed to talk with her lawyers via video link in the presence of security officials and it is not known if she is even aware of the bloody turmoil that has engulfed the country since the military seized power.
"No, we haven't, we could only talk about legal matters," lawyer Min Min Soe told Reuters when asked if her legal team had been able to talk to her about the protests in which more than 700 people have been killed.
The most serious charge Suu Kyi faces falls under Myanmar's official secrets laws. Min Min Soe said Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest in Naypyidaw, appeared in good health but it is not clear if she has any idea of the turmoil that has unfolded in Myanmar over the past two months.
Near-daily protests seeking her release and the restoration of democracy have been met with rubber bullets, live rounds and even grenades by the security forces.
More than 700 civilians have been killed in the space of just 70 days since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group, which says more than 3,000 have been arrested.
In Tamu, near Myanmar's border with India, a six-year-old girl was shot dead while walking to the shop to buy snacks on Monday morning, a local in the city told AFP. In one of the bloodiest days of the unrest so far, on Friday more than 80 protesters were killed by security forces in the southern city of Bago.
Witnesses described seeing dead bodies piled up and then loaded into army trucks and driven away, while the UN said many of the wounded had been denied medical treatment.
The military insists it is dealing proportionately with what it says are violent agitators, while junta chief General Min Aung Hlaing told officials in Yangon they were "ensuring the strengthening of democracy", state media reported.
Despite the dangers, protesters continue to rally and Monday -- the eve of Myanmar's Buddhist new year celebrations -- saw demonstrations in the second biggest city Mandalay as well as Kalay, in the north.
In Yangon, a number of city transport buses were torched overnight. The bloody crackdown has brought widespread international condemnation and calls for restraint -- as well as sanctions from some countries on the Myanmar armed forces and their extensive business interests.
But diplomatic bickering has hampered more concerted action, with the EU's top diplomat blaming Moscow and Beijing for blocking tough measures such as a UN arms embargo.
The crisis has seen a flare-up in clashes between the military and Myanmar's numerous ethnic rebel armies, some of which have openly backed the protest movement -- sparking fears of potential civil war. -AFP