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Aung San Suu Kyi's Lawyer Gives Updates On Her Trial

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Large-scale protests continue across Myanmar more than a month after the military took control there. The military has responded to those protests with tear gas, rubber bullets, stun grenades and live bullets. More than 50 people have died. Reuters reports that protesters have begun to string up women's clothing on lines across the streets to try to slow down police and soldiers. Security forces have arrested more than a thousand people, including Myanmar's civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. She has had two trial appearances. Both have been closed to the public, and her attorney has not been able to meet with her since her arrest. That attorney is Khin Maung Zaw. He joins us now from Myanmar.

Thanks so much for being with us.

KHIN MAUNG ZAW: Yes, yes. thanks.

SIMON: How do you represent a client that you haven't been able to meet with?

ZAW: It's a must that I have to meet with her because between the client and the lawyer, there must be a private meeting to give instructions. If Aung San Suu Kyi, my client, doesn't have that chance, there will be injustice.

SIMON: What do you make of the charges? Because I read them through, and they seem to boil down to the fact that she had six walkie-talkies.

ZAW: Yeah. Yes. For those six walkie-talkies found in her residence when the police raided there, she was charged for illegally importing those six walkie-talkies. And the second charge is for preaching the instructions and the communications, consigning with those six walkie-talkies.

SIMON: Why is it against the law to use a walkie-talkie in Myanmar?

ZAW: There is no specific regulations about walkie-talkies, but if someone use an electronic appliance, that person must apply for that instrument.

SIMON: As I'm sure I don't have to tell you, Aung San Suu Kyi has been under a lot of criticism...

ZAW: Of course.

SIMON: ...In the West and at home because of her silence on the massacre of the Rohingya people. How is she viewed in Myanmar today?

ZAW: At this moment, she is the victim of the military usurpation of power. That's why I have to stand for her. And most of the people in our country stand for her.

SIMON: I understand you served nine years in prison under a previous military regime.

ZAW: Yes.

SIMON: May I ask, sir, do you feel safe now?

ZAW: I don't feel safe, but it's my duty to stand for Aung San Suu Kyi and also for the students and demonstrators that has been put on trial - representing for them. yeah.

SIMON: Do you believe that Aung San Suu Kyi can receive a fair trial?

ZAW: Aung San Suu Kyi has no chance of a fair trial. She cannot get legal assistance. She is now kept incommunicado. She cannot get open trial. But as a lawyer, I have to trust the judiciary. So I am hoping for the best, but I prepare for the worst.

SIMON: And the worst would be more violence.

ZAW: Maybe. maybe.

SIMON: Do you think the trial will bring more people out in public to protest and the military will crack down again?

ZAW: There is a possibility for this.

SIMON: What would you like people in the United States to know today?

ZAW: The United States is in the forefront of liberty and democracy. The government of the United States, together with its people, help and assist in all ways. It means to regain our democratic ways and people-elected (ph) government.

SIMON: Khin Maung Zaw is the attorney representing Myanmar's civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. Her trial is scheduled to resume March 15. Khin Maung Zaw, thanks very much for being with us.

ZAW: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.