Suu Kyi appears 'not very well' as trial starts in Myanmar

SUU KYI: Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi attends the opening session of the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila, Philippines, on Nov. 13, 2017. Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

Multiple police officers testified on Monday as the trial began against the former de facto head of Myanmar's government, against a backdrop of continued unrest following the February military coup that put the current government in charge.

Aung San Suu Kyi was described as looking "not very well" during the first day of testimony, but still seemed interested and was paying attention, according to Khin Maung Zaw, the head of her defense team.

Suu Kyi was toppled from power by the military coup in February and has been under house arrest ever since. She was never officially installed as president or prime minister because of rules designed to keep her from power, but was the most powerful politician in the government as the leader of the ruling party and one of the country's most revered activists.

The 75-year-old Nobel peace prize laureate is accused of a dozen different crimes. Observers believe that the military aims to silence Suu Kyi long-term, as she faces long sentences.

She is accused, among other things, of violating foreign trade rules and coronavirus rules, as well as of inciting unrest and misuse of land. Most recently she has also been accused of corruption.

Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, described the charges against Suu Kyi as "bogus, and politically motivated by the intention to nullify her landslide election victory in the November 2020 election and prevent her from ever running for office again."

"All these charges should be dropped, resulting in her immediate and unconditional release. But sadly, with the restrictions on access to her lawyers, and the case being heard in front of a court that is wholly beholden to the military junta, there is little likelihood she will receive a fair trial," Robertson said.

Myanmar has sunk into chaos and violence since a military coup in early February. The armed forces have brutally cracked down on any form of dissent.

Suu Kyi already spent 15 years under house arrest before the last political liberalization in Myanmar allowed her freedom and let her National League of Democracy contest and win elections. Although some had questioned her political instincts since she had taken power, Robertson said the new moves against her are once again turning her into a "martyr."

According to the nonprofit Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, at least 863 people have been killed and more than 6,000 arrested amid protests since the coup demanding the former government be restored.


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