Myanmar’s civilian president who was removed from office by the military, has testified that the generals tried to force him to relinquish power hours before the February 1 coup, warning him he could be seriously harmed if he refused, his attorney said.
The first public comments from Win Myint since he was overthrown challenge the military’s claim that no coup took place and that power was lawfully transferred to the generals by an acting president.
Win Myint was testifying in court alongside Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and de facto government leader before the coup, at their trial on charges including sedition and incitement, stemming from letters bearing their names that were sent to embassies urging diplomats not to recognise the military regime.
Win Myint, who was Myanmar’s head of state, told the court in the capital Naypyidaw that two senior military officials approached him on February 1 and told him to resign, citing ill health.
“The president turned down their proposal, saying he was in good health,” defence lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said.
“The officers warned him the denial would cause him many harm but the president told them he would rather die than consent.”
Myanmar has been ravaged by violence since the armed forces intervened to prevent Aung San Suu Kyi from forming a new government, three months after her party was re-elected to office in a landslide.
The generals have sought to justify the coup by claiming that the election was marred by fraud, threatening the country’s sovereignty. However, the election commission found no evidence of wrongdoing in the poll.
The vice president, Myint Swe, a former army officer, was sworn in as president on February 1 and immediately handed power to the military to oversee a state of emergency.
The generals have not publicly disclosed how Myint Swe assumed the presidency from Win Myint.
The military has been cracking down brutally on dissent. Since the coup in February, more than 1,000 civilians have been killed, according to a local monitoring group.