ASEAN Beat | Politics | Southeast Asia

Myanmar Construction Magnate Claims Cash Payments to Suu Kyi

The accusation is the junta’s latest attempt to implicate Aung San Suu Kyi in corruption.

Myanmar Construction Magnate Claims Cash Payments to Suu Kyi

Protesters hold umbrellas as they gather for a protest against the military coup in Mandalay, Myanmar, Saturday, March 13, 2021.

Credit: AP Photo

A Myanmar construction magnate with links to military rulers claimed he personally gave more than half a million dollars in cash to the country’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a broadcast on state television aimed at discrediting the ousted civilian government.

The statement by Maung Waik could pave the way for more serious charges against Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained in an unknown location since the February 1 military takeover while security forces increasingly use lethal force against a popular uprising demanding the restoration of democratically elected leaders.

The military has already tried to implicate Aung San Suu Kyi in corruption, alleging she was given $600,000 plus gold bars by a political ally. She and President Win Myint have been charged so far with inciting unrest, possession of walkie-talkies, and violating a pandemic order limiting public gatherings.

In the latest salvo of allegations, Maung Waik, who has previously been convicted of drug trafficking, told the state broadcaster that he gave cash to government ministers to help his businesses. He said the money included $100,000 given to Aung San Suu Kyi in 2018 for a charitable foundation named after her mother, $150,000 in 2019 for which he did not specify a reason, $50,000 last February and $250,000 in April, again with no purpose specified.

Meanwhile, a Myanmar court has issued an arrest warrant for the country’s U.N. ambassador, Kyaw Moe Tun, on charges of treason, the state-run newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar reported.

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The charge stems from his remarks at the United Nations in New York on February 26, in which he condemned the coup and appealed for “the strongest possible action from the international community” to restore democracy in his country.

Also charged with treason was Mahn Win Khaing Than, the civilian leader of Myanmar’s government in hiding, the paper said. The acting vice president and member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party spoke for the first time since the coup on Saturday when he vowed to continue supporting a “revolution” to eject the military from power.

On Thursday, residents of a Yangon suburb set street barricades ablaze to block riot police.

Video showed large palls of smoke rising over the Tha Mine area in the city’s Hlaing township, with another barricade burning fiercely in the middle of a residential area. One resident, who did not want to be named for fear of retaliation, told the Associated Press that protesters set them alight after hearing that a column of police trucks was on its way.

The building of barricades – and their occasional burning – are now established tactics by opponents of the junta all over the country to impede police and army movement. The barriers also provide cover from the now frequent use of live ammunition against them.

On Wednesday, at least two people were shot dead in Kalay in northwestern Myanmar, according to media and social media posts that included photos of the victims. More than 200 people have been reported killed since the coup.

A statement issued Sunday by the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw — an organization of the elected members of Parliament whom the military barred from taking their seats but who have set themselves up as an alternative government to the junta — announced that the general public has the legal right to self-defense against the security forces. The committee was earlier called a treasonous organization by the junta, which declared it illegal.

Pope Francis also appealed for an end to the bloodshed.

In an apparent reference to widely broadcast images of a nun in Myanmar, kneeling on the street in front of armed security forces begging them not to shoot protesters, Francis said: “I, too, kneel on the streets of Myanmar and say: may violence cease.”

Reporting by the Associated Press from Mandalay, Myanmar.