The US on Wednesday called on the Myanmar military to liberate Aung San Suu Kyi as the ousted leader was indicted in a coup d’état after his imprisonment, while calls for civil disobedience to the coup gained momentum.
The Southeast Asian nation was returned to direct military rule when soldiers arrested key civilian leaders in a series of dawn raids on Monday, ending the army’s brief flirtation with democracy.
Suu Kyi, who has not been seen in public since then, won a major landslide with her National League for Democracy (NLD) last November, but the military – whose preferred parties received a drubbing – declared the polls to be fraudulent.
On Wednesday, the NLD spokesman announced that 75-year-old Suu Kyi had been officially charged with an offense under Myanmar’s import and export law. A court signed two weeks of pre-trial detention.
The unusual charge arose from a search of her home following her arrest, which revealed walkie-talkies. This is clear from a leaked police indictment that was seen by reporters.
A similarly unorthodox indictment under the country’s civil protection law against President Win Myint centered on him, who allegedly violated anti-coronavirus measures last year by meeting voters on the campaign trail.
The United States said it was “disturbed” by the charges.
“We urge the military to release them all immediately,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters from Suu Kyi and other civilian leaders.
With soldiers and armored cars on the streets of big cities, the takeover was not hit by any major street protests.
But signs of public anger and plans for resistance flicker.
Doctors and medical staff in several hospitals across the country announced Wednesday that they would be putting on red ribbons and removing themselves from all non-emergency work in protest of the coup.
“Our main goal is to only accept the government we have elected,” Aung San Min, director of a 100-bed hospital in Gangaw district, told AFP.
Some medical teams have posted pictures on social media wearing red ribbons in NLD colors and raising a three-finger salute, a protest gesture used by democracy activists in neighboring Thailand, while others have chosen to bypass the work altogether.
“My protest starts today with not going to the hospital … I don’t feel like working under the military dictatorship,” said Nor Nor Wint Wah, a doctor in Mandalay.
Activists announced their campaigns on a Facebook group called the Civil Disobedience Movement, which had more than 150,000 followers within 24 hours of its start on Wednesday afternoon.
The clatter of pots and pans, the honking of car horns and the singing of protest songs of democracy rang out for the second time in a row in the commercial capital of Yangon on Wednesday evening after calls were made on social media.
Late Wednesday the military issued a statement denying rumors that it would debunk 5,000 kyat ($ 3.70) and 10,000 kyat ($ 7.40).
The demonetization of banknotes was a key factor in a 1988 uprising.
The deadly legacy of the military
Army chief Min Aung Hlaing appointed himself head of a new cabinet with generals and justified his coup on Tuesday as the “inevitable” result of ignoring the army’s fraud warnings.
The military declared a year-long state of emergency and said it would hold new elections once allegations of voter irregularities were dispelled.
The move stunned Myanmar, a country impoverished by decades of junta misconduct before it began to turn to a more democratic government 10 years ago.
But protest is fraught with risk.
During the junta rule, the dissent was broken with thousands of activists – including Suu Kyi – who had been imprisoned for years.
Censorship was widespread and the military frequently used lethal violence, particularly during major protests in 1988 and 2007.
The new government has already issued a warning urging people not to say or post anything that “could lead to riot or an unstable situation”.
On Wednesday, the NLD announced that the military had committed “illegal acts” following the coup, raiding its party offices across the country and confiscating documents and computers.
The army’s actions were met with a growing chorus of international condemnation – though options are limited for those nations hoping Myanmar’s generals might reverse course.
On Tuesday, the United States officially labeled the takeover as a coup, meaning it cannot back the Myanmar government.
All effects will be mainly symbolic, as almost all support goes to non-governmental organizations and the Myanmar military has already been under US sanctions for its brutal campaign against the Rohingya minority.
The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on Tuesday but was unable to agree on a statement condemning the coup.
To be passed, it needs the support of China, which as a permanent member of the Security Council exercises a right of veto and is Myanmar’s main supporter at the United Nations.
“China and Russia have asked for more time,” said a diplomat, asking for anonymity.
Both countries repeatedly protected Myanmar from criticism of the United Nations for the military’s actions against the Rohingya, a campaign that, according to UN investigators, amounted to genocide.
On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry urged the international community to “create a solid external environment for Myanmar to properly resolve the differences,” according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.
In the absence of a statement from the UN meeting, the G7 countries presented their own and asked the Myanmar military to reverse course.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and posted from a syndicated feed.)