Deposed Myanmar leader Suu Kyi faces new charge under official secrets law

Ms Aung San Suu Kyi has been charged with breaking a colonial-era official secrets law.
Ms Aung San Suu Kyi has been charged with breaking a colonial-era official secrets law.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

YANGON (REUTERS, AFP) - Myanmar's deposed leader, Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, has been charged with breaking a colonial-era official secrets law, her lawyer said on Thursday (April 1), the most serious charge against the veteran opponent of military rule.

Myanmar has been rocked by protests since the army overthrew Ms Suu Kyi's elected government on Feb 1, citing unsubstantiated claims of fraud in a November election that her party swept.

Ms Suu Kyi and other members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) have been detained.

The junta had earlier accused her of several minor offences, including illegally importing six handheld radios and breaching Covid-19 protocols.

Her chief lawyer, Mr Khin Maung Zaw, told Reuters by telephone that Ms Suu Kyi, three of her deposed Cabinet ministers and a detained Australian economic adviser, Sean Turnell, were charged a week ago in a Yangon court under the official secrets law, adding that he learnt of the new charge two days ago.

A conviction under the law can carry a prison sentence of up to 14 years. A spokesman for the junta did not answer telephone calls seeking comment.

Ms Suu Kyi, who is 75 and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her efforts to bring democracy to Myanmar, appeared via video link for a hearing in connection with the earlier charges on Thursday.

Another of her lawyers, Mr Min Min Soe, said she appeared to be in good health.

"Amay Su and President U Win Myint are in good health," the lawyer said, referring to Ms Suu Kyi by an affectionate term for mother.

The President, a Suu Kyi ally, was also deposed and detained in the coup. He too faces various charges.

Their lawyers have said the charges against both of them were trumped up.

Mr Khin Maung Zaw told reporters: "She demanded a meeting between her and her lawyers - a private meeting to give her instructions to the lawyers and discuss the case without any outside interference by police or armed forces."

The next hearing will be April 12.

The junta is also probing the Nobel laureate over allegations that she took payments of gold and more than US$1 million (S$1.3 million) in cash, but Mr Khin Maung Zaw said these were not likely to translate into formal charges at this stage.