YANGON, Myanmar — Police in Myanmar filed a new charge against ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, her lawyer said Tuesday, in a move that may allow her to be held indefinitely without trial as part of an intensifying crackdown by authorities who seized power in a coup.
Suu Kyi, who was deposed and detained in the military takeover on Feb. 1, already faced a charge of illegally possessing walkie-talkies — an apparent attempt to provide a legal veneer for her house arrest. Under the new charge, she is accused of breaking a law that has been used to prosecute people who have violated coronavirus restrictions, lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told reporters after meeting with a judge in a court in the capital, Naypyitaw.
It carries a maximum punishment of three years in prison. But, perhaps more worryingly, because of changes to the Penal Code instituted by the junta last week, it could allow her to be detained indefinitely, even without a court’s permission. Suu Kyi’s lawyer told reporters he has not seen her since her arrest — and only arrived after an unexpected videoconference the judge said had been held with her.
The legal maneuver comes two weeks after the military seized power in a coup that shocked many in the international community who had been hopeful that Myanmar was taking steps toward democracy. Since then, the junta has ratcheted up the pressure on protesters resisting the takeover, including violently breaking up some demonstrations and blocking internet access.
On Monday, security forces pointed guns at a group of 1,000 demonstrators and attacked them with slingshots and sticks in the city of Mandalay. Local media reported that police also fired rubber bullets into a crowd and that a few people were injured.
Protests continued Tuesday in Yangon, the country’s largest city, and elsewhere. In Yangon, police blocked off the street in front of the Central Bank, which protesters have targeted amid speculation online that the military is seeking to seize money from it. Buddhist monks demonstrated outside the U.N.’s local office in the city.
Around 3,000 demonstrators — mainly students — returned to the streets of Mandalay, carrying posters of Suu Kyi…