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Myanmar’s ousted leader to face new corruption charges

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
An image of detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi is projected on a screen during a night-time demonstration by protesters against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, on March 13, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi is set to face new corruption charges, as unrest continues over the recent coup d’état in the country.

On Wednesday night, Myanmar’s state television reported that Suu Kyi was being investigated for bribery in connection with the acceptance of a total of $550,000 over several years from a prominent businessman.

“Aung San Suu Kyi committed corruption and (authorities) are preparing to charge her according to anti-corruption law,” it said.

This came after Maung Weik, a Myanmarese property developer with links to the country’s military rulers, claimed that he had donated money to senior government figures to promote his business.

He said the money included $100,000 given to Suu Kyi in 2018 for a charitable foundation named after her mother, $150,000 in 2019 for which he did not specify a reason, $50,000 last February and $250,000 in April.

“Those accusations are groundless and illogical,” Suu Kyi’s lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, said on Thursday.

“Aung San Suu Kyi may have her defects... but bribery and corruption are not her traits,” he said, adding that most people in Myanmar would not believe the allegations.

This is not the first time corruption allegations were being filed against Suu Kyi. Military authorities have also accused her of accepting illegal payments of $600,000 in cash as well as a large quantity of gold.

She also faces charges of possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies, violating coronavirus restrictions, breaching telecommunications laws, and intending to cause public unrest.

Myanmar has been gripped by turmoil since the military ousted Suu Kyi in a February 1 coup, and detained her and several other senior figures from the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) Party.

The junta, which has declared a one-year emergency across Myanmar, claims that it seized power after it found fraud in elections held three months earlier that the NLD had won in a landslide.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have held numerous protests against the coup leaders in the Southeast Asian country, demanding the release of Suu Kyi and the other detainees.

More than 80 people have so far been killed in the protests, and over 2,100 people have been arrested, according to data from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group.

Junta tightens grip

Meanwhile, Myanmarese authorities have restricted the internet services that people have been using to organize protests, with access to WiFi in public areas largely shut off by Thursday.

Residents of some towns, including Dawei in the south, reported no internet at all.

Non-state media have also come under pressure.

While authorities have ordered some newspapers to shut, others have apparently been forced to close for logistical reasons. The last private newspaper stopped publishing on Wednesday.

Some 37 journalists have been arrested, including 19 who remained in detention, the United Nations Human Rights Office said on Tuesday.

However, state-run media have not been affected.

Separately on Thursday, several thousand people marched in the small town of Natmauk. There were no reports of violence.

Myanmarese security forces have intensified a brutal crackdown on anti-coup protesters that includes shooting demonstrators and overnight arrests.

The international community has repeatedly called for the release of the detained leaders and urged the restoration of the civilian government. It has also urged the junta to stop the use of lethal force against the anti-coup protests.

The military regime has, however, defied global calls for restraint and maintained its use of lethal force.

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