Myanmar’s detained civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been charged with breaking a colonial-era official secrets act, which carries a jail term of up to 14 years, her lawyer confirmed on Thursday.
Ms Suu Kyi, three cabinet ministers and her Australian economics adviser, Professor Sean Turnell, were charged a week ago in Yangon, but her lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, told Reuters he only learned of the charge – the military’s most serious accusation against her to date – two days ago.
The junta had earlier accused the democratically-elected leader of illegally possessing walkie-talkies and breaching Covid-19 rules. Ms Suu Kyi has been in custody since the military coup on February 1 but is reportedly in good health.
More than 530 protesters have been killed during a violent security force crackdown on opponents. The UK widened its sanctions on Thursday to include the Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC), a conglomerate with close links to the junta.
The UK and US have been leading the international effort to sanction Myanmar’s army chiefs and their assets, but Christine Schraner Burgener, the UN special envoy on Myanmar, told the UN Security Council on Wednesday to consider “potentially significant action” as “a bloodbath is imminent.”
Her warning came as the military declared a ceasefire which appeared to be aimed at armed ethnic insurgent groups in outlying states, rather than a gesture towards urban protesters.
Several ethnic leaders in Myanmar’s restive border regions have declared their opposition to the coup, leading to the rising possibility that they could take up arms against the military.
Despite the ceasefire declaration, relief groups assisting the Karen minority in southeast Myanmar said junta airstrikes had continued in civilian areas.
The Free Burma Rangers said several civilians, including children, had been killed since the weekend when the military began its first aerial bombardment in over 20 years, and that more than 20,000 people had been forced into hiding.