Aung San Suu Kyi, the overthrown democratically elected State Counselor of Myanmar, was charged with a sixth criminal offense on Monday. The charge comes amidst a military coup d’état in the country.
Lawyer Min Min Soe reportedly told AFP that Suu Kyi has been charged under section 25 of the Natural Disaster Management Law (The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Law No. 21, 2013). Section 25 provides for the imposition of imprisonment for up to three years and the possibility of an additional fine upon whomever “if the natural disaster causes or is likely to be caused by any negligent act without examination or by wilful action which is known that a disaster is likely to strike”.
Suu Kyi is in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar, under house arrest after being arrested when the coup d’état began in early February. Monday’s new charge against Suu Kyi illustrates a strong crackdown by the Myanmar military junta on the country’s figureheads of democracy. Suu Kyi is a long-standing and high-profile human rights and democracy champion. In 1988, she co-founded the political party National League for Democracy and is currently President of the party. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 on account of her “non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.” In the 2010s when Myanmar engaged in a planned transition to partial democracy, following decades of military rule after the coup d’état in 1962, Suu Kyi played a central role.
Although the Myanmar military overthrew Suu Kyi’s government and holds power, the citizenry of Myanmar and international commentators have denounced the coup d’état. Protests have broken out across the country throughout the military rule and hundreds of lives have been lost in the fight for democracy. The EU Council and the US Treasury Department have imposed sanctions on the Myanmar military in response to the violence perpetrated against peaceful pro-democracy protestors. Support for protestors has resounded alongside calls for the return of democratic government in the country.
Suu Kyi also faces the more serious charge of leaking state secrets under the Official Secrets Act of 1923 which carries imprisonment sentences of up to 14 years.