Myanmar’s ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi appears in good health despite two months of detention, her legal team said Wednesday as diplomatic pressure on the military junta ramped up.
Daily protests demanding the restoration of the elected government have been met with a crackdown that has left more than 520 civilians dead in the weeks since the February 1 coup.
The junta’s violent response has triggered international condemnation – and threats of retaliation from some of Myanmar’s myriad ethnic armed groups.
The US State Department ordered the departure of non-essential diplomatic staff and their families from Myanmar, and Japan – a top donor to the country – halted new aid payments.
The 75-year-old Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since she was deposed by the military and detained in the early hours of February 1.
But a member of her legal team, Min Min Soe, was summoned to a police station in the capital Naypyidaw for a video meeting with her on Wednesday.
Suu Kyi is facing a raft of criminal charges and conviction could see her barred for life from political office.
“The physical situation of DASSK (Suu Kyi) seemed good according to her appearance on video screen,” her legal team said in a statement.
Suu Kyi noted that during the meeting, police officers remained at the lawyer’s side, and guards monitored her at her end, the statement said, adding that the Nobel laureate had asked whether this was lawful.
Japan cuts aid
The US said it had decided to pull its staff out of the country to protect their safety and security.
World powers have repeatedly condemned the violent crackdown on dissent and hit top junta figures with sanctions.
Japan has halted new aid to the country, according to the country’s foreign minister, but stopped short of imposing sanctions.
“For Myanmar, Japan is the largest provider of economic assistance,” Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told parliament on Tuesday.
“What stance is Japan taking in terms of economic assistance? There is no new aid. We are taking this clear position.”
But so far the pressure has not swayed the generals. Saturday, the annual Armed Forces Day, saw the biggest loss of life so far, with at least 107 people killed.
The spiralling bloodshed has angered some of Myanmar’s 20 or so armed ethnic groups, who control large areas of territory mostly in border regions.
Three of them – the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army and the Arakan Army (AA) – on Tuesday threatened to join protesters’ fight unless the military reined in its violence.
While the trio has yet to act on their warning, two other outfits – the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) – have stepped up attacks on the military and police in recent days.
A police station in Bago was reportedly hit with a rocket attack that injured five officers on Tuesday, though it was not clear who was responsible.
The KNU, one of the biggest rebel groups, took over an army base in eastern Kayin state at the weekend, prompting the military to respond with airstrikes.
Further strikes were launched on Tuesday, but Padoh Saw Taw Nee, the KNU’s head of foreign affairs, said the group would continue its position of “strongly supporting people’s movement against (the) military coup.”
The KNU’s Fifth Brigade on Tuesday condemned the airstrikes and warned it had no option but to “confront these serious threats” posed by the military.
Wounded cross border
About 3,000 people fled through the jungle to seek safety across the border in Thailand after the weekend strikes.
Thai authorities say about 2,400 have returned voluntarily to Myanmar, and another 200 have also agreed to go back.
Karen activists have accused Thai authorities of pushing people back and say they are blocking UN refugee officials from the area.
Some Karen people injured in the weekend strikes sought medical treatment Tuesday on the Thai side of the border – the most serious case was a 15-year-old with a collapsed lung and broken rib.
Thai police said they had intercepted 10 parcels containing 112 grenades and 6,000 rounds of ammunition in northern Chiang Rai province that had been destined for Myanmar’s notorious border town Tachileik.
The UN Security Council will hold an emergency session on Myanmar on Wednesday, requested by former colonial power Britain.