Myanmar's Suu Kyi hit with two more criminal charges

Ms Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since being detained on February 1

Ousted Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi faced two more criminal charges when she appeared in court by video link on Monday, a month after a military coup triggered mass protests.

Ms Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since being detained on February 1, and her court appearance happened as demonstrators  again defied deadly force from the junta.

At least 18 people died on Sunday as troops and police fired live rounds at demonstrators in cities across Myanmar, according to the United Nations, which cited its own information.

Ms Suu Kyi, 75, was already facing criminal charges for possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies, as well as violating coronavirus restrictions by staging a campaign event during last year's election.

She is now also accused of violating communications laws and intent to incite public unrest, her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said.

"We cannot say for sure how many more cases Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will face in this period," he told reporters in Naypyidaw.

"Anything can happen in this country at this time."

Myanmar's ousted president Win Myint is also facing the same intent to incite public unrest charge in addition to coronavirus restriction breaches.

Ms Suu Kyi has reportedly been under house arrest in Naypyidaw, an isolated city that the military built during a previous dictatorship.

The military has justified its takeover, ending a decade-long democratic experiment, by making unfounded allegations of widespread fraud in last November's national elections.

Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won the election by a landslide.

The generals have hit Ms Suu Kyi with two charges the international community widely regards as frivolous – relating to importing walkie talkies and staging a campaign rally during the pandemic.

Monday's court proceedings were preliminary and included Khin Maung Zaw's request to formally represent her.

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to streets regularly over the past month to oppose the coup.

While the military has steadily increased the type of force used to try to contain the uprising, beginning with teargas and water cannon, this weekend's violence was the biggest escalation.

One person was shot while crouching behind rubbish bins and other makeshift shields, and had to be dragged away by others, the incident filmed by media.

AFP independently confirmed 10 deaths in Sunday's violence, although there were fears the toll could be much higher.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a monitoring group, estimated that about 30 people were killed by security forces since the coup on February 1.

On Monday, protests erupted again in cities across the country, with demonstrators in Yangon using bamboo poles, sofas and tree branches to barricade streets.

In one clash broadcast live on Facebook and verified by AFP, unarmed protesters fled after a volley of shots.

It was not clear if the security forces had fired live rounds or rubber bullets.

Hundreds of people were also arrested over the weekend with many in Yangon taken to Insein Prison, where Myanmar's leading democracy campaigners have served long jail terms under previous dictatorships.

More than 1,100 people have been arrested, charged, or sentenced since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

One reporter was shot with rubber bullets on the weekend while covering a protest in the central city of Pyay, their employer said.

Several journalists documenting Saturday's assaults by security forces were detained, including an Associated Press photographer in Yangon.

"We strongly condemn the escalating violence against protests in Myanmar and call on the military to immediately halt the use of force against peaceful protesters," Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the UN human rights office, said.

The US has been one of the loudest voices against the junta, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticised Sunday's violence.

"We condemn the Burmese security forces' abhorrent violence against the people of Burma and will continue to promote accountability for those responsible," Mr Blinken tweeted, using the country's old name.

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