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Myanmar Crisis

Myanmar's Suu Kyi looks 'healthy' in first meeting with lawyer

Deposed leader expands legal team after two months of house arrest

Suu Kyi appears to be under detention in her own home, according to her lawyer.   © Reuters

BANGKOK -- Myanmar's ousted de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi met virtually with an attorney Wednesday for the first time since her detention two months ago, Khin Maung Zaw, the head of her legal team told Nikkei Asia.

Junior lawyer Min Min Soe was summoned to a police station in Naypyitaw for a videoconference with the deposed state counselor, who has been under house arrest since the Feb. 1 coup. The call lasted about a half-hour.

"Her physical condition ... seemed good" based on what could be seen in the video, Khin Maung Zaw said. Min Min Soe told Reuters that Suu Kyi "looks healthy."

While there had been reports that Suu Kyi had been moved from her home in Naypyitaw to a different location, Khin Maung Zaw said that "from the background of the video conference on the screen, it seems to be her own residence."

Suu Kyi reportedly asked whether the apparent presence of police and security forces on both sides of the call was lawful, and requested an in-person meeting with lawyers without officials present.

"We've asked authorities for a direct meeting," Min Min Soe said.

Suu Kyi also officially appointed four additional attorneys for her defense, including Khin Maung Zaw. Police had allowed only two junior lawyers to be granted power of attorney, which Suu Kyi said did not seem adequate now given the additional allegations against her.

The ousted leader faces four charges, including possession of illegally imported walkie-talkies. She has appeared at court proceedings via video link, but her contact with the outside world has otherwise been cut off. A hearing in her case is scheduled for Thursday.

Khin Maung Zaw stressed that defendants have the right to access an attorney, and said Suu Kyi's legal team hopes to meet with her directly soon.

The legal development comes as the military government continues its crackdown. Security forces as of Tuesday had killed 521 people since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a non-profit human rights organization in Myanmar. Another 2,608 have been detained, including senior members of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy and officials in her administration.

In a meeting Tuesday of the ruling State Administration Council, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the head of the military government, sought to justify the use of force by claiming the protests had degenerated into riots, according to a state-run newspaper.

The number of casualties has risen sharply in recent days. Security forces have recently fired on civilians without hesitation, killing more than 100 on Saturday alone.

Forces in Yangon have escalated the crackdown with hand grenades and artillery, while some protesters have sought to fight back with makeshift firearms, Molotov cocktails and bows and arrows. Local residents have described the area as a "battlefield."

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