Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi appears in good health following a video meeting with her lawyers, it has emerged.
Details on the condition of the 75-year-old were disclosed as the US ordered non-essential embassy staff to leave the country after weeks of violence over a 1 February coup and fears mounted that the escalating violence was drawing in the country’s minority groups.
The US state department’s decision to withdraw staff comes as the UN security council will hold an emergency session on Myanmar on Wednesday, requested by former colonial power Britain. The 15 members will meet behind closed doors, beginning with a briefing from the UN’s special envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been in custody since the military seized power, had wanted to meet lawyers in person and had not agreed to a wide discussion by video in the presence of police, lawyer Min Min Soe told Reuters by telephone.
“Amay looks healthy, her complexion is good,” Min Min Soe said, using an affectionate term meaning “mother”.
Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested the same day the military seized power and faces charges that include illegally importing six handheld radios and breaching coronavirus protocols.
The military has also accused her of bribery in two recent news conferences.
Her lawyers say the charges are trumped up and have dismissed the accusation of bribery as a joke.
The military seized power on 1 Feburary, saying that November elections won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party were fraudulent. The election commission said the vote was fair.
Daily protests demanding the restoration of the elected government have been met with a military crackdown that has left more than 520 civilians dead in the weeks since the coup.
The junta’s violent response has triggered international condemnation – and threats of retaliation from some of Myanmar’s ethnic armed groups.
The US state department said it was ordering the departure of “non-emergency US government employees and their family members”. The decision was taken to protect the safety and security of staff and their families, the state department said.
World powers have repeatedly condemned the violent crackdown on dissent and hit top junta cadres with sanctions. But the pressure has not swayed the generals. Saturday, the annual Armed Forces Day, saw the biggest loss of life so far, with at least 107 people killed.
The bloodshed has angered some of Myanmar’s 20 or so armed ethnic groups, which control large areas of territory mostly in border regions.
Three of them – the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army and the Arakan Army (AA) – on Tuesday threatened to join the protesters’ fight unless the military reined in its crackdown.
While the trio has yet to act on their warning, two other outfits – the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) – have stepped up attacks on military and police in recent days.
A police station in Bago was reportedly hit with a rocket attack that injured five officers on Tuesday, though it was not clear who was responsible.
The KNU, one of the biggest rebel groups, took over an army base in eastern Kayin state at the weekend, prompting the military to respond with air strikes. Further strikes were launched on Tuesday, but Padoh Saw Taw Nee, the KNU’s head of foreign affairs, said the group would continue its position of “strongly supporting people’s movement against [the] military coup”.
The KNU’s Fifth Brigade put out a statement on Tuesday condemning the airstrikes and warning it had no option but to “confront these serious threats” posed by the military.
Around 3,000 people fled through the jungle to seek safety across the border in Thailand after the weekend strikes. The Thai foreign ministry said on Tuesday about 2,300 have returned to Myanmar, while about 550 remain in Thailand.
Karen activists have accused the Thai authorities of pushing people back and accused them of blocking UN refugee officials from the area.
Thai prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said there was “no influx” of refugees and that the kingdom’s authorities had not “scared them off with guns or sticks”.
Some Karen people injured in the weekend strikes sought medical treatment on Tuesday on the Thai side of the border – the most serious case was a 15-year-old with a collapsed lung and broken rib.
Agence France Press and Reuters contributed to this report