YANGON (AFP) – Myanmar’s ousted president yesterday described turning down a deal to vacate his seat and save himself in the early moments of the February coup that snuffed out his country’s short-lived democratic experiment, his lawyer said.
Win Myint, who was detained along with civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, made the comments as he testified for the first time at his trial for incitement in a junta court.
The 69-year-old recounted how two senior army officers entered his room in the early hours of February 1 “and urged him to resign from his post of the presidency, giving the reason of ill health”, lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said.
“The president turned down their proposal, saying he was in good health. The officers warned him the denial would cause him much harm but the President told them he would rather die than consent,” he added.
Similar dawn raids took place across the capital Naypyidaw, taking key civilian leaders into custody and ending the army’s brief flirtation with democracy.
Win Myint – a longtime ally of Suu Kyi – faces a raft of charges, including incitement and sedition.
The junta – officially known as the State Administration Council – has threatened to dissolve Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party and continues to wage a bloody campaign against opponents to its rule.
Win Myint and Suu Kyi will call no defence witnesses in their incitement trial, their lawyers said last week.
Suu Kyi is scheduled to testify for the first time later this month.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the putsch with huge protests, renewed clashes between the military and ethnic rebel armies in border regions, and an economy spiralling into freefall.
Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing has justified his power grab by citing alleged electoral fraud in the November poll won by the NLD.
The military has cracked down brutally on dissent – shooting protesters, arresting suspected dissidents in night raids, shutting down news outlets, and rounding up journalists.
More than 1,000 civilians have been killed, according to a local monitoring group.