Myanmar: Aung San Suu Kyi accused of taking bribes as more deaths reported

Elected leader’s party reject as ‘slander’ junta’s allegations that Suu Kyi took cash and gold worth nearly $1.3m, as UN condemns crackdown

The United Nations has condemned the Myanmar military’s violent crackdown against anti-coup demonstrators as eight more people were reported shot dead in protests and a military spokesman accused deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi of taking bribes.

Speaking in the capital of Naypyidaw on Thursday, a junta spokesman, Zaw Min Tun, alleged the detained chief minister of Yangon admitted giving Aung San Suu Kyi $600,000 in cash, along with more than 11kg ($680,000 worth) of gold. The anti-corruption commission was investigating, Zaw Min Tun said.

The claims were strongly rejected by members of her National League for Democracy, one of whom, former MP Aye Ma Ma Myo, told Reuters: “It is no longer uncommon to see slander against politicians and efforts to crush the party while innocent young people are killed in public.”

Aung San Suu Kyi, detained since the coup, faces other criminal charges including owning unlicensed walkie-talkies and violating coronavirus restrictions by staging a campaign event in 2020.

The new charges came as the military’s crackdown on protests opposing the coup continued. Local media, witnesses and medics said six people were shot dead in the central town of Myaing on Thursday when security forces opened fire on anti-junta protests and domestic media said one man was killed in the North Dagon district of Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city.

Photographs posted on Facebook showed a man lying prone on the street, bleeding from a head wound. A further death was reported in Mandalay.

More than 60 people are believed to have been killed protesting against the 1 February coup that removed Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government from power.

The UN statement criticising the crackdown however removed language that explicitly condemned the coup and threatened possible further action from the British-drafted text, due to opposition by China, Russia, India and Vietnam.

The presidential statement, signed by all 15 members of the security council called for “utmost restraint” by the military. A presidential statement is a step below a resolution but becomes part of the official record of the UN’s most powerful body.

The statement called for the immediate release of government leaders including state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and president Win Myint who have been detained since they were ousted in the coup.

It said it supported the country’s democratic transition and “stresses the need to uphold democratic institutions and processes, refrain from violence, fully respect human rights and fundamental freedoms and uphold the rule of law”.

But it is weaker than the initial draft circulated by the United Kingdom which would have condemned the military coup itself and threatened “possible measures under the UN Charter” – UN language for sanctions – “should the situation deteriorate further.”

Diplomats said council members China, Russia, India and Vietnam, which is a member of the 10-nations Association of Southeast Asian Nations known as Asean, along with Myanmar, objected to provisions in stronger earlier drafts of the statement.

China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun said in a statement that “it is important the council members speak in one voice,” and declared that it’s now time for de-escalation, diplomacy and dialogue.

The UN statement came as Amnesty International accused Myanmar security forces of using battlefield weapons on unarmed protesters and carrying out premeditated killings orchestrated by their commanding officers.

International pressure on the Myanmar junta has mounted since the army ousted and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi last month, triggering daily protests around the country.

The United States also applied fresh pressure with sanctions against Aung Pyae Sone and Khin Thiri Thet Mon, two adult children of Myanmar junta leader Min Aung Hlaing.

The pair have a variety of business holdings that have directly benefited from their “father’s position and malign influence”, said a US Treasury statement.

The UK is also exploring fresh sanctions, foreign minister Dominic Raab said in a tweet.

Welcome news from @SecBlinken of further sanctions targeting the Myanmar Commander-in-Chief’s family and business interests. The UK is exploring additional sanctions too – we are clear the regime should not be allowed to profit from abuse of power and human rights violations.

— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) March 10, 2021

Close to 2,000 people have been arrested and the death toll has climbed to more than 60 in a post-coup crackdown.

On Wednesday, police surrounded and arrested at least 200 students and civilians protesting against the military coup on the outskirts of Yangon, according to witnesses who said those detained were driven away in unmarked trucks.

Video footage from North Okkalapa showed protesters fleeing under fire. At least one person appeared to be seriously wounded.

“Some of them were severely beaten, but the people are still continuing their protest,” a local rescue worker told AFP. Footage showed people coughing and washing their faces after teargas was deployed and there were reports of gunfire.

“A girl was wounded in her pelvic area by gunshot and she was taken to her home because the hospital is occupied by the security forces,” a rescue worker said.

Earlier, military forces raided a compound in a Yangon neighbourhood that is home to state railway workers who have been on strike. Riot police sealed off the Mingalar Taung Nyunt area where the Ma Hlwa Kone train station and housing for rail employees are located.

Anti-coup protesters with makeshift shields in Mandalay.
Anti-coup protesters with makeshift shields in Mandalay. Photograph: AP

Thousands of government workers across the country have been participating in a civil disobedience movement aimed at choking state institutions and paralysing the economy. The movement has resulted in hospital disruptions, bank closures and empty ministry offices.

Amnesty International meanwhile, has collated graphic video clips posted on social media to document what it called a “nationwide killing spree” in the weeks since the military seized power on 1 February.

“These Myanmar military tactics are far from new, but their killing sprees have never before been livestreamed for the world to see,” Joanne Mariner, Amnesty’s director of crisis response, said in a new report.

“These are not the actions of overwhelmed, individual officers making poor decisions,” she said.

“These are unrepentant commanders already implicated in crimes against humanity, deploying their troops and murderous methods in the open.”

Amnesty analysed 55 videos recorded from 28 February to 8 March in cities across Myanmar, including Mandalay and Yangon.

In one Facebook clip, dated 28 February from the south-eastern city of Dawei, a soldier was seen handing his rifle to a police officer next to him. The policeman takes aim and shoots, before personnel around them erupt in apparent celebration.

The footage was recorded from a property above the street. In the background of the audio, women can be heard sobbing.

“Not only does this incident show a reckless disregard for human life, making sport of shooting live rounds at protesters, it also reveals deliberate coordination among security forces,” Mariner said.

Amnesty said some military units had been drafted in from restive ethnic-minority areas of Myanmar where many atrocities are said to have occurred, and also alleged extrajudicial executions of protesters.

Guardian staff and agencies

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