Myanmar’s government charges opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi with violating constitution

Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar — Myanmar’s military government has filed a new charge against opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, accusing her of violating the law governing state spending.

In a series of late-night postings on state television and radio, the government announced it had filed the new charge Wednesday. It was not immediately clear what the new charge was, but it appeared to be a follow-up to an earlier charge against Suu Kyi relating to the country’s military-backed constitution.

Myanmar’s military, which for decades controlled the country’s government and in 2016 still wielded near-total power, is constitutionally barred from running for office under the constitution. Nevertheless, the military and its political proxy, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, swept last year’s election that ended years of army rule. Suu Kyi was elected to parliament as the head of the National League for Democracy, the party she co-founded in 1988, and ultimately became its leader.

Previously, Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, had been accused of violating the constitution in an earlier ruling that formed the basis of a previous conviction by the military. She was fined $3,500 — the maximum amount a woman can be fined under the constitution — and ordered to perform community service by staying in her constituency in Rangoon for two days, according to International Campaign for Rohingya Human Rights.

The military’s latest decision to charge Suu Kyi comes amid rising political tensions in Myanmar.

According to a report in the state-owned New Light of Myanmar news newspaper Wednesday, a military official raised concerns about the local authorities’ disregard for the law. “For instance, communities were evacuated unnecessarily, [with] delayed reporting of incidents to military authorities,” according to the report. The paper reported that the military official also expressed frustration over inaction by local authorities in northern Rakhine State, where a massive military offensive in August launched by the military displaced over 655,000 people.

The new charges also emerged just days after Suu Kyi called on political parties to voluntarily accept stipulations of the constitution.

Last week, Suu Kyi criticized the judiciary system during an event that celebrated the achievements of Myanmar’s constitution, in particular the clause that bars the military from running for political office.

“Unfortunately there’s no party, there’s no group that advocates against amending, and the Constitution is an important provision of our Constitution,” she said. “Amending it is not like a change of mind or a change of heart, but there is also a different way of thinking.”

In a reminder that the military’s political influence extends even beyond Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy’s new Constitution Committee on Monday organized an official inauguration for Suu Kyi.

Meanwhile, the Rohingya people have, until this month, faced the burden of a sweeping army offensive against them. Thousands were killed by the military, and Myanmar’s Ministry of Information has claimed that, in addition to the 655,000 who had fled Rakhine state by late last year, Myanmar’s security forces detained more than 2,100 Rohingya people in “security operations.” Most of those who died were Rohingya civilians.

In 2014, Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her years of activism and her role in fighting for democracy and human rights in Myanmar. “The award belongs to those other two million people whom she risked her life to advocate for in the past,” she said at the time.

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