Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi — ousted 1 February in a military coup and taken into custody — made a virtual court appearance on Monday, during which more charges were laid against her as protesters returned to the streets after deadly violence Sunday. The Reuters news agency reported that the two new charges were for publishing information that could “cause fear or alarm” and for unlicensed or improperly licensed use of telecommunications equipment.
Police in Myanmar opened fire on hundreds of protesters in several cities at the weekend, killing 18 people and wounding some 30 others. Police and military forces confronted peaceful demonstrations in Yangon, Dawei, Mandalay, Myeik, Bago and Pokokku with “lethal force and less-than-lethal force” throughout the day, according to a UN spokesperson.
As deadly police and military violence against civilians escalates in Myanmar, a leading Catholic human rights umbrella group issued a call on Monday for peaceful resolution to the ongoing crisis in the country, precipitated by a military coup last month that has sparked protests across the country.
“We are concerned by the reports reaching us in recent days indicating a significant increase in violence and the casualties and suffering arising for society and citizens,” said the statement from Justice Justice & Peace Europe, a network of 32 national Justice and Peace Commissions mandated by their bishops’ conferences to speak out on a range of issues, from poverty and human rights, to peace, reconciliation, development, and responsible stewardship of the created order.
“[W]e wish to support the people of Myanmar in their defence of democracy and to express our solidarity with peaceful protesters,” the statement from J&P Europe’s Executive Committee went on to say. Signed by Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor, who serves as President of Justice & Peace Europe’s Executive Committee, the statement joined Pope Francis’s recent appeal to leaders in Myanmar responsibility to “show sincere willingness to serve the common good, promoting social justice and national stability in view of a harmonious and democratic cohabitation.”
The statement urged the prompt release of all political prisoners and expressed support for the Catholic Bishops of Myanmar in their pleas to military authorities responsible for the coup d’etat to refrain from violence and seek reconciliation, while respecting democratic principles and human rights, “including the right to life, the prohibition of torture, the freedom of assembly, media and expression.”
The authors of the military coup cited “fraudulent” elections last November — elections in which the military, which holds seats in parliament, suffered significant setbacks. Those elections, however, were internationally judged to have been free and fair. “The peaceful elections of November 2020 in Myanmar,” Justice & Peace Europe said, “gave the new government a mandate and obligation to pursue the inclusive economic and social goals for which it was elected.” The coup leaders, however, arrested the elected leadership and seized power.
Citing a 3 February letter from Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, in which His Eminence pleaded with coup leaders to “treat [the people of Myanmar] with great dignity and peace,” and prayed that there “be no violence against our dear people of Myanmar,” Justice and Peace Europe said: “We stay united in prayer with the people of Myanmar. You will not be forgotten. May truth, justice and peace prevail.”