Protesters hold umbrella as they gather for a protest against the military coup in Mandalay, Myanmar, Saturday, March 13, 2021. Police in Myanmar fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters in the country's two largest cities and elsewhere on Friday, as authorities continued their harsh crackdown on opponents of last month's military coup. (AP Photo)
A Myanmar construction magnate with links to military rulers claimed he personally gave more than half a million dollars in cash to deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a broadcast on state television aimed at discrediting the ousted civilian government.
The statement by Maung Waik could pave the way for more serious charges against Suu Kyi, who has been detained since the Feb. 1 military takeover while security forces increasingly use lethal force against a popular uprising demanding the restoration of democratically elected leaders.
The military has already tried to implicate Suu Kyi in corruption, alleging she was given $600,000 plus gold bars by a political ally. She and President Win Myint have been charged so far with inciting unrest, possession of walkie-talkies and violating a pandemic order limiting public gatherings.
In the latest salvo of allegations, Maung Waik, who has previously been convicted of drug trafficking, told the state TV he gave cash to government ministers to help his businesses. He said the money included $100,000 given to Suu Kyi in 2018 for a charitable foundation named after her mother, $150,000 in 2019 for which he did not specify a reason, $50,000 last February and $250,000 in April, again with no purpose specified.
On Wednesday, protesters fired slingshots and threw Molotov cocktails toward lines of security forces in a rare incidence of fighting back against a relentlessly violent crackdown, which one organization said has claimed more than 200 lives since the coup.
At least two people were shot dead in Kalay in northwestern Myanmar, according to media and social media posts that included photos of the victims.
Smoke and fires were seen in Kalay and Yangon on Wednesday night, reportedly from authorities burning down barricades protesters had set up during the day.
Pope Francis appealed for an end to the bloodshed.
In an apparent reference to widely broadcast images of a nun in Myanmar, kneeling on the street in front of armed security forces begging them not to shoot protesters, Francis said: “I, too, kneel on the streets of Myanmar and say: may violence cease.”
In response to increased police violence, protesters began taking a more aggressive approach to self-defense — burning tires at barricades and pushing back when they could against attacks.
A statement issued Sunday by the Committee Representing Pyihtaungsu Hluttaw — an organization of the elected members of Parliament whom the military barred from taking their seats but who have set themselves up as an alternative government to the junta — announced that the general public has the legal right to self-defense against the security forces. The committee was earlier called a treasonous organization by the junta, which declared it illegal.