Myanmar’s civilian leaders have been charged with breaking COVID-19 rules and owning walkie talkies

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Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi looks on as health workers receive a vaccine for the Covid-19 coronavirus at a hospital in Naypyidaw on January 27, 2021. THET AUNG/AFP via Getty Images
  • Myanmar’s military overthrew the civilian government in a coup this week.
  • Police have charged civilian leaders with minor infractions and are detaining them until at least February 15.
  • The bogus charges say civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi illegally owns more than 10 walkie talkies.
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Police in Myanmar filed charges against the country’s civilian leaders with minor infractions that carry years-long sentences, another phase in its ongoing coup.

On Wednesday, Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s leader since 2016, was charged with breaking importing and exporting laws and possessing unlawful electronic devices.

A court detention order reviewed by the New York Times said police officers searched her home and found at least 10 walkie-talkies without the proper paperwork for them. If convicted, she could be imprisoned for up to three years, according to the Times.

Police also charged Win Myint, Myanmar’s elected president and a political acolyte of Suu Ky, with breaking COVID-19 lockdown restrictions because he greeted supporters on the campaign trail in 2020. The infraction also carries a three-year sentence, and if convicted Myint could be prevented from holding office ever again, The Times reported.


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Myanmar’s military took over the country’s government on January 31 in a coup that involved detaining Suu Ky, declaring a state of emergency, and transferring power to Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

The coup reversed years of democratic progress in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, which had moved from decades of military control to democracy since the 2010s. Suu Ky, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was first elected as state counsellor — a role analogous to prime minister — in 2015, and her party won an overwhelming mandate in November 2020.

The charges will keep Suu Ky and Myint in custody until February 15, according to police documents reviewed by BBC News.

The military has also blocked internet, phone, and television access throughout much of the country.

Local activists have launched civil disobedience movements to oppose the coup, and medical professionals in at least 70 hospitals have stopped work in protest.

China and Russia on Tuesday blocked a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the coup.

“China is a friendly neighbour of Myanmar’s,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in a statement, according to Reuters. “We hope that all sides in Myanmar can appropriately handle their differences under the constitution and legal framework and safeguard political and social stability.”