dpa/GNA – New corruption allegations against detained Myanmar leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi were aired on national television on Thursday, as the military seemed to seek to strengthen the case for its coup against her government last month.
In the broadcast, U Maung Weik, a business owner, is shown explaining how he handed over envelopes full of cash to Suu Kyi or her associates starting in 2017. In all, he said he had handed over a total of 550,000 dollars during four separate incidents.
A newsreader said the businessman has been found guilty of bribery and that the country’s anti-corruption commission is investigating.
Leaders of the coup had made allegations in recent weeks that Suu Kyi had been the ultimate recipient of about 600,000 dollars in cash and gold bars funneled to her. If found guilty on both charges, she could face 30 years in prison, the newspaper The Irrawaddy wrote on Thursday.
After Suu Kyi was dislodged by the February 1 coup, the soldiers who ousted her have piled on charges against her, from illegally importing walkie talkies to sowing disorder by inducing others to commit offences against the state to mishandling the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
But outside observers say the military is more likely trying to sideline the country’s most popular politician. Although the constitution, which was drafted by the military, guarantees it expansive powers and the right to name a veto-proof minority in the legislature, it was surprised by the strength of support for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) in November’s elections.
It has frequently alleged election tampering, but provided no proof.
Khin Maung Zaw, a lawyer for Suu Kyi, dismissed the new allegations when asked by dpa.
“I am here not to tell this as her lawyer, but as a Myanmar citizen. We all believe her character. You can criticize her in many ways but you cannot criticize her such as silly ideas of corruption.
“I always believe her character. No one believes that she is corrupt.”
Widespread support for Suu Kyi has turned into one of the greatest problems for the coup leaders, who might not have expected how strongly the Myanmar public would react to her ouster and house arrest.
Protests against the coup started almost immediately and have not died down, even though the death toll and the number of detentions has been rising. Protesters say that authorities have shown little hesitation to use live ammunition against unarmed protesters.
In recent days, Suu Kyi’s supporters have also taken to barricading access to entire neighbourhoods in the hopes of keeping security officials away. But members of the military have now begun to order people to tear down the barricades under threat of force.
“The military tried to arrest the people in the streets or on the roads. And they forced the people to remove the things which were built for their neighbourhood’s safety,” said Tin Tun Aung, a resident of Yangon’s South Okkalapa Township.
That reflected a situation reported by other protesters.
“The people were told that if building the bases again, [they will] all have to be killed. Now they are going around the township, in the streets and firing shots [at] the houses,” said Than Myint, in Hlaing Thar Yar Township.
“Many people can’t go out as they are constantly firing shots.”
A Yangon taxi driver even told dpa he was stopped and forced to clear barricades along with two passengers.
“We all were forced to remove the barricades for an hour. They asked us to do by the order and we could not reject it,” Tun Tun said.