Myanmar army hunts protest backers over social media comments
February 13, 2021 09:27 PM NPT
MYANMAR, Feb 13: Myanmar’s army on Saturday ordered the arrest of seven well-known backers of protests against this month’s coup, including Min Ko Naing, who has been a leading pro-democracy activist since bloodily supressed protests in 1988.
The announcement was made on the eighth day of country-wide demonstrations against the Feb. 1 takeover and detention of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, which halted an unsteady transition to democracy that began in 2011.
People should inform the police if they spot any of the seven people named and will be punished if they shelter them, the army’s True News information team said in a statement.
It said cases had been filed under section 505 (b) of the penal code - which was often used by previous juntas and imposes a sentence of up to two years for comments that could cause alarm or “threaten tranquility”.
Min Ko Naing, 58, who was imprisoned for most of the time between 1988 and 2012, has been one of the most prominent figures in encouraging the protests and a civil disobedience movement, sending messages of encouragement almost daily.
On Friday, he had warned against a wave of nighttime arrests and urged communities to organise to prevent them.
“Elders and youths should cooperate and keep in touch,” he said in a video message.
Reuters was not immediately able to reach him for comment.
Others with warrants against them included “Jimmy” Kyaw Min Yu - also a veteran of the 1988 student uprising - singer “Lin Lin” Htwe Lin Ko and Myo Yan Naung Thein, a political analyst, and Maung Maung Aye, an NLD-supporting television presenter, and writer Insein Aung Soe.
“I am so proud to have a warrant issued along with Min Ko Naing. Catch me if you can,” said the last, Ei Pencilo, to her more than 1.6 million followers on Facebook.
Like several of those named, she worked with Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), which won a landslide in a November election the army alleged to be tainted with fraud - an accusation dismissed by the electoral commission.
The United Nations human rights office said on Friday more than 350 people have been arrested in Myanmar since the coup by army chief General Min Aung Hlaing, who said he acted because of election malpractice.
Journalist Shwe Yee Win, who had reported on opposition to the coup in the western town of Pathein, was taken away by police and soldiers on Thursday and has not been heard from since, her TimeAyeyar news website and her mother said.
“I am really worried,” said Thein Thein, now looking after her daughter’s one-year-old child.
The government did not respond to requests for comment.
Anger in Myanmar has been fuelled by videos showing more arrests of government critics - including a doctor who was part of the civil disobedience movement. Some arrests have taken place during the hours of darkness.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners voiced concern.
“Family members are left with no knowledge of the charges, location, or condition of their loved ones. These are not isolated incidents, and nighttime raids are targeting dissenting voices,” it said in a statement.
Suu Kyi, for decades the standard bearer of the fight for democracy in Myanmar, faces charges of illegally importing and using six walkie-talkie radios.
NLD press officer Kyi Toe said on Facebook that she was healthy under house arrest in the capital Naypyitaw.
The coup and detentions have prompted anger from Western countries and the 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on Friday calling on Myanmar to release detainees an refrain from using violence against protesters.
The United States this week began imposing sanctions on the ruling generals and some businesses linked to them.
Airline staff, health workers, engineers and school teachers were among groups that joined the protest marches on Saturday and that have rallied to a civil disobedience campaign that has shut down a swath of government business.
Protesters have ignored a call from junta leader Min Aung Hlaing to stop.