UN chief calls for international pressure to ensure Myanmar coup fails

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Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma, Myanmar
Burma leader Aung San Suu Kyi

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on international leaders to ensure Myanmar’s coup fails as police levelled their first formal charge against the country’s deposed leader and the new military government blocked access to Facebook.

Senior generals announced on Monday that they would take power for a year, accusing Aung San Suu Kyi’s government of not investigating the military’s claims of voter fraud in recent elections.

Ms Suu Kyi’s party swept that vote and the military-backed party did poorly.

In an interview on Washington Post Live, Mr Guterres said the United Nations would work with key international players “to put enough pressure on Myanmar to make sure that this coup fails”.

Also on Wednesday, the foreign ministers of the G7 leading industrial nations issued a statement calling for Ms Suu Kyi and others to be released and for power to be restored to the democratically elected government.

She appears likely to be detained until at least the middle of the month after police charged her with possession of illegally imported walkie talkies.

The charge came to light two days after she was placed under house arrest and appeared to be an effort to lend a legal veneer to her detention, though the generals have previously kept her and others locked up for years.

Hundreds of politicians who had been forced to stay at government housing after the coup were told on Wednesday to leave the capital within 24 hours and go home, a member of parliament from Ms Suu Kyi’s party said.

Internet users said the Facebook disruption began late on Wednesday, and mobile service provider Telenor Myanmar confirmed that mobile operators and internet service providers had received a directive from the communications ministry to temporarily block the site.

Telenor Myanmar, which is part of the Norwegian Telenor Group, said it would comply, though it was concerned the order was a breach of human rights.

Facebook is especially popular in Myanmar and the ousted government had commonly made public announcements on the social media site.

National League for Democracy (NDL) spokesman Kyi Toe confirmed the charge against Ms Suu Kyi that carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.

He also said the country’s ousted president, Win Myint, was charged with violating the natural disaster management law.

A leaked charge sheet dated February 1 indicates they can be held until February 15.

Police and court officials in the capital Naypyitaw could not immediately be contacted.

The takeover marked a shocking fall from power for Ms Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who had lived under house arrest for years as she tried to push her country towards democracy and then became its de facto leader after her party won elections in 2015.

Ms Suu Kyi had been a fierce critic of the army during her years in detention. But after her shift from democracy icon to politician, she worked with the generals and even defended their crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, damaging her international reputation.

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