Aung San Suu Kyi urges public to ‘stay united’

Detained State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi urged the Myanmar public to discuss and overcome their differences in a message delivered through a source close to the court during a hearing in Naypyitaw on Monday.

The individual told Myanmar Now that Suu Kyi had given the rare statement to her legal team during a session in a junta court specially designated to review charges brought against her by the military council.

“She said today that everyone needs to stay united and hold discussions on different views. If they still aren’t able to open dialogues now, she said to wait patiently until it is possible to do so,” the source said, quoting the State Counsellor.

Upon being asked by Myanmar Now whether Suu Kyi was encouraging negotiation amongst members of the public themselves or with the military council that staged a coup in early 2021, the individual maintained that she was “only addressing the people.”

“What she meant was that there could be people who have different or contrasting opinions, and it is necessary to get along with one another; also that negotiations would be necessary in order to come to a common solution amongst the people,” the source explained.

The source asked not to be named as the junta restricts information on the trials of detained leaders, including deposed President Win Myint.

Suu Kyi and Win Myint were arrested just before the coup was attempted and are currently being held in an undisclosed location in Naypyitaw.

The military has filed 17 charges against the 76-year-old Suu Kyi, on which she has already been convicted of five counts and sentenced to six years in prison.

The source, who is familiar with the trial proceedings, said that the State Counsellor appeared to be in good health on Monday’s hearing, which was concerning five charges of violating Section 55 of the Anti-Corruption Law. Each carries a maximum prison sentence of five years.

Monday’s session included 90 minutes of final testimony from Suu Kyi’s legal team concerning the allegation that she had accepted bribes from former Yangon Region chief minister Phyo Min Thein. He is also a central executive committee (CEC) member of her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), whose elected administration was ousted in the coup.

Suu Kyi has rejected the accusation and Phyo Min Thein’s testimony as untruthful. The verdict on the case is expected next Tuesday.

Both the State Counsellor and another NLD patron, Win Htein, have been reportedly named on the defence team’s witness list concerning five corruption charges brought against the NLD CEC vice chair, 69-year-old ousted Mandalay Region chief minister Dr Zaw Myint Maung.

His hearings are being held every Tuesday and Friday in another specially designated junta court inside Mandalay’s Obo Prison, where Zaw Myint Maung is being held.

The military council has reportedly agreed to let 80-year-old Win Htein—who is also detained in Obo Prison and struggles with a range of health issues and requires an external oxygen supply—testify in the cases against Zaw Myint Maung starting next week.

It was not clear at the time of reporting whether Suu Kyi would be allowed to testify in person or over video, the court source said.

“This is still not a special privilege as anyone who witnessed the incident is legally permitted to testify,” the source added.

The junta initially filed three corruption charges against Zaw Myint Maung for allegedly accepting bribes, including while he was undergoing treatment for leukemia in Bangkok, Thailand—an illness for which he has continued to require medical treatment inside Obo Prison.

Two more corruption charges were filed against him for alleged misconduct concerning the funds associated with the construction of NLD party offices in Myingyan and Pyin Oo Lwin in Mandalay Region.

He was already sentenced to four years in prison after being found guilty of incitement and of violating pandemic-related public health restrictions.

Up to 12 witnesses, including two men who offered the alleged bribes, have testified against Zaw Myint Maung. One of them, Maung Weik, spoke to the court on February 18, testifying that he did not personally give money to the ousted chief minister, according to another source who is familiar with the trial.

Zaw Myint Maung has reportedly requested testimony on his behalf from between eight and 11 witnesses.

The military filed further charges against him for misconduct during the 2020 general election—which is accompanied by a one-year prison sentence if convicted—and for violating Constitutional provisions, which carries a three-year term.

Zaw Myint Maung, Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Htein have previously testified on behalf of one another.

NLD central executive committee member Kyaw Htwe confirmed that more than 600 of the party’s members and leaders had been detained by the junta since the coup.

Updates on the conditions of the imprisoned leaders are typically only learned from their lawyers following their court hearings. The military has not released information on the detainees and Myanmar Now has been unable to interview junta officials concerning this matter.