Myanmar’s junta again postponed court proceedings against deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday, her lawyers said, as they fight for permission to visit her 12 weeks after she was detained.
The country has been in turmoil since the military ousted the Nobel laureate in a February 1 coup, shunting the country back into junta rule after a brief experiment with democracy.
Large swathes of the population have taken to the streets in protest, with security forces unleashing a brutal campaign to quell the massive uprising.
Meanwhile Suu Kyi has been under house arrest, with the junta charging her under six cases — including for sedition and having unlicensed walkie-talkies.
But movement on her case was once again delayed until May 10, her lawyer Min Min Soe said Monday after a hearing.
Twelve weeks since Suu Kyi was detained, Min Min Soe said her attorneys still have not received permission to meet their client face-to-face — one of many hurdles the team has faced.
“When the judge asked (police) which stage they have reached, they replied they couldn’t tell specifically,” she told AFP, adding that Suu Kyi was frustrated by the slow pace.
“I think she is not getting access to watch news and TV. I do not think she knows the current situation happening in the country,” she said.
Besides not being able to meet with Suu Kyi, junta-imposed mobile data shutdowns have also prevented video-conferencing in previous hearings.
The most serious charge Suu Kyi faces falls under Myanmar’s official secrets law, with a hearing due in Yangon on May 6.
‘Eradicate the fascist army’
Nationwide protests continued Monday, with demonstrators in the south holding signs that said “Free our leaders” and waving red flags emblazoned with a golden peacock — the symbol of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party.
In commercial hub Yangon, dozens of protesters took part in a flash mob which lasted only 10 minutes — a lightning-quick show of resistance to avoid confrontation with security forces.
Waving a three-finger salute, they chanted “Eradicate the fascist army!”
The junta has justified its power grab by claiming it is protecting democracy, alleging electoral fraud in November elections which the NLD won in a landslide.
Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing had travelled to Jakarta over the weekend for a top-level meeting with the 10-country bloc of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) — his first overseas trip since his power grab.
The meeting produced a “consensus statement” that called for the cessation of violence, but stopped short of demanding a release of political prisoners.
It drew condemnation from much of Myanmar’s civil society — already angered by ASEAN’s invitation to the general.
“The statement does not include what the civilians are asking for — respect for their basic human rights, democracy and peace,” said the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a local monitoring group that has tracked post-coup Myanmar’s escalating death toll.
“People in Burma are not asking for humanitarian aid, but for the international community to stand for the truth,” it said, referring to Myanmar by its former name.
Former US president Barack Obama on Monday urged Myanmar’s neighbours to “recognise that a murderous regime rejected by the people will only bring greater instability, humanitarian crisis, and the risk of a failed state“.
According to AAPP’s latest figures, security forces have killed more than 750 people.
The junta has given a much lower death toll and blames the violence on “rioters”.
State-run television news on Monday night called AAPP an “illegal association”, and action will be taken against it.
It also reported that one member of the security forces was killed in Chin state, when their convoy was attacked by people with homemade guns.
‘Solve its own problems’
Also present in Indonesia over the weekend was the UN special envoy to Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener — who has so far been denied a visit to the country.
According to UN sources, Burgener spoke with senior General Min Aung Hlaing on the sidelines of the ASEAN meeting.
The special envoy had previously implored the UN Special Council to take action against the generals, warning that “a bloodbath is imminent” if the international community continues to stall.
So far, western powers like the United States, the European Union and Britain have imposed sanctions targeting military top brass and army-affiliated businesses.
But Myanmar’s allies Russia and China have been seen to be blocking efforts for a wider response, such as imposing an arms embargo, according to the EU foreign policy chief.
On Monday Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia is following Myanmar’s situation “with great attention” but added that the country must “solve its own problems”.