Three weeks ago, soldiers raided Aung San Suu Kyi’s home early in the morning and placed him under house arrest, abruptly ending a 10-year democratic experiment.
Khin Maung Zaw’s client will face several obscure charges, including illegal possession of walkie-talkies and violation of coronavirus restrictions.
“Burma is at a pivotal moment in its history“, he told AFP by telephone from Naypyidaw, the administrative capital of the country.
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– “Win this battle” –
“If we lose, we will become slaves to the military junta for 40 or 50 years. We must win this battle.”
Despite several requests, he has still not been allowed to see his client before his hearing scheduled for March 1.
“If I don’t get permission to meet her before the hearing, I’ll let the world know the trial isn’t fair“, he warns.
It has also reinforced its own security measures, due to “indirect pressures“.
“At night I have to stay away from home and sleep with friends“, he tells AFP.
Khin was born in 1948 in Pyinmana, a city today on the outskirts of the capital built by the military from scratch in the middle of the jungle, Naypyidaw.
He says he is used to threats from a military regime.
He was first jailed at the age of 17 for demonstrating against the then dictatorship and distributing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on his Mandalay campus (center).
He was sent to the dreaded Coco Islands prison, 400 kilometers off the Burmese coast in the Andaman Sea, “the equivalent of a gulag“, since destroyed.
Released in 1972, he was arrested again three years later for joining student protests.
He spent a total of nine years behind bars.
“I have no reason to be afraid for myself because I rose up against all these executions and repressions“, he declares.
– The army “capable of anything” –
Since the coup d’état of February 1, the authorities have steadily stepped up their use of force to contain the massive campaign of civil disobedience sweeping the country.
Khin Maung Zaw is astonished by the dynamism of the demonstrators, but he fears for their safety, while four of them have already been killed since the beginning of the movement.
“The spark caught fire and the flames spread“. And”in the past, when the army felt overwhelmed, it was capable of anything“he said.
His last high profile case dates back to the defense of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo which he provided.
The two men spent almost 18 months in prison for exposing atrocities against the Rohingya minority.
The case took him away from the government of Aung San Suu Kyi, who had defended the army’s raids, and even called journalists “traitors“, according to an American diplomat.
But Khin Maung Zaw says leave the disagreements aside “personal“in doing so, seeing the constant efforts of the Nobel Peace Prize winner to avoid, unsuccessfully, a return to military rule.
“I do not represent Aung San Suu Kyi as a person – I represent an elected person democratically attacked by military forces“he said.
“All this is for the defense of democracy.”
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