Police in Myanmar have charged Aung San Suu Kyi with breaking the country’s export-import law after finding “illegally imported” walkie-talkie radios at the deposed leader’s home.
The charges, contained in a police document seen by Reuters, are the first against Aung San Suu Kyi since the military seized power in a coup on Monday.
Reuters reported that police were seeking to detain the 75-year-old Nobel laureate until February 15. Police also filed charges against President Win Myint for violating the country’s disaster management law.
Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s state counsellor, and the president were detained by the military along with scores of other officials from the ruling National League for Democracy on Monday morning, hours before a newly elected parliament was due to convene.
The military declared a year-long state of emergency, justifying the putsch by alleging “terrible fraud” in the November 8 election, which the NLD won by a large margin and which local observer groups described as credible.
Longtime analysts of the country’s politics said the charges laid against the pair were trumped-up and reminded them of past abuses of the law by the military during the almost five decades when it ran Myanmar.
Charles Santiago, a Malaysian MP and chair of Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights, described the charges as “ludicrous”.
“This is an absurd move by the junta to try to legitimise their illegal power grab from Myanmar’s democratically elected government,” he said in a statement. “This does nothing except rub further salt into the wounds of the millions who voted for the NLD in November.”
“This move is a page from the SLORC playbook,” said Moe Thuzar, co-co-ordinator of the Myanmar studies programme at Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. She was referring to the State Law and Order Restoration Council, the junta that ran what was then Burma from 1988 and which imprisoned thousands of people.
The arrests came as there were signs of a nascent public resistance campaign against the coup.
Staff at dozens of hospitals in Yangon and other big cities stopped work on Wednesday and posed for pictures wearing red ribbons — the NLD’s colour — to protest against the putsch.
Some held up their hands in the three-finger salute taken from The Hunger Games, the dystopian young adult franchise of books and films. The gesture was popularised by protesters during last year’s demonstrations in neighbouring Thailand.
A self-described “Civil Disobedience Movement” on Tuesday started a Facebook page opposing the coup, and some residents of Yangon and other cities banged on pots and honked car horns in evening protests.
“We don’t recognise the military government, and we refuse to obey any order from this military government,” one of the group’s organisers told the Financial Times by phone. “We demand they release Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other officials detained on Monday.”
The man, who asked not to be named, said the group planned further peaceful actions, and would try to persuade other civil servants to take part. “We ask the people of Myanmar and the international community to stand with us.”
Foreign minister of the G7 group of industrialised countries on Wednesday added their voice to condemnation of the coup, saying they were “deeply concerned” by the detention of senior officials and calling on Myanmar’s military to end the state of emergency, release prisoners and respect human rights and the rule of law.
A UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday failed to agree on a joint statement condemning the coup after China and Russia opposed it.