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Trial Begins In Myanmar For Ousted Leader Aung San Suu Kyi

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

The trial of Myanmar's ousted civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, began today in the capital, Naypyitaw. She's been in detention for more than four months now, ever since the February 1 coup that returned the country's repressive military to power. The military justified its coup by alleging widespread election fraud on the part of Suu Kyi and her party. Michael Sullivan reports.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN, BYLINE: The military started slapping charges against Suu Kyi just days after her detention. It hasn't stopped since. Some seem laughable - illegally importing walkie talkies for her security guards, for example - others, including violating the state Official Secrets Act, far more serious. Just last week, state-run media said several new charges had been filed, including bribery and misuse of authority involving land deals.

PHIL ROBERTSON: These are politically motivated, bogus charges that are being brought against her because they don't want to ever have her run for election again. They don't want to see her walking free on the streets of Myanmar again.

SULLIVAN: That's Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch. It's not just Suu Kyi the junta wants to bury, he says, but her party, the National League for Democracy as well, using the alleged election fraud in November as grounds to disband it. International monitors have dismissed the allegations as groundless.

ROBERTSON: This is military rule. So this is we've got the guns, we have the guys, and we're going to do whatever we want. The Myanmar military is digging in for the long haul.

SULLIVAN: But it's facing a strong challenge from a civil disobedience movement that began shortly after the coup and has now morphed into outright armed resistance in many parts of the country with ragtag civilian militias battling the military even as it continues its decades-long fight with ethnic minority militias in the borderlands. The military might succeed in sidelining Suu Kyi permanently. The growing resistance will be harder to get rid of. For NPR News, I'm Michael Sullivan in Bangkok.

(SOUNDBITE OF PORTICO QUARTET'S "ART IN THE AGE OF AUTOMATION") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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