Some 120 celebrities arrested for covering up ‘defamation’ charges against military junta – Radio Free Asia
Nearly 20 celebrities have been arrested and more than 100 are in hiding after participating in protests against the coup against Myanmar’s military junta, which seized power from the country’s democratically elected government on February 1, according to members. family and lawyers.
Film actors, directors, composers, singers, artists and models were among those who joined protests in February and March, offering their support to the country’s Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) after the coup. State, which the military said was justified, citing unproven allegations. electoral fraud during the November 2020 elections in the country.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won an overwhelming majority in the ballot, but its leaders have since been placed under arrest.
Among 17 celebrities currently in custody, movie stars Pyay Ti Oo, Eindra Kyaw Zin and May Toe Khing were charged on Thursday under section 505 (a) of Myanmar’s Criminal Code, which concerns “statements or rumors. likely to lead soldiers to mutiny or breach of their duty, ”according to their lawyers.
Model Paing Tagun and film actor Ye Taik were also arrested in April for joining the front lines of protest marches and sit-ins and charged under 505 (a). They are now being held in private cells at the country’s notorious Insein prison.
On April 2, state media began posting a series of photos and videos of artists accused of “inciting officials” to join the CDM and “inciting public outrage” on their media accounts. social.
According to the Thailand-based Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners (AAPP), in addition to Pyay Ti Oo, Eindra Kyaw Zin and May Toe Khaing, movie stars charged under 505 (a) include Paing Tagun (also known as name of Sit Ko Paing), Ye Taik, Zin Waing, Thurein Lwin Lin Thit, Zarganar, Khin Min Khant, Po Po, Myo Thandar Tun and Athen Cho Swe.
Director Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi and singer Saw Phoe Khwar have been arrested and are currently being held in Insein Prison, while actress Zhan Qi and director Kristina Qi, both American citizens who had helped the NLD in campaign, were arrested at Yangon Mingaladon Airport. as they were about to leave for Thailand and placed under house arrest, the military said on April 22. Police did not issue an arrest warrant at the time of their arrest, sources said.
Arrest warrants have been issued for more than 100 artists, some of whom are in hiding and others who have since fled Myanmar or are taking refuge in remote areas under the control of the country’s ethnic armies.
Singer Novem Htoo, who is in hiding after being accused of defamation, has said he will put aside his goals to join the fight against the military, wherever he ends up.
“It would be suffocating to live under a dictatorship – there would be very few opportunities,” he said.
“I support a federal system in which you can shape your own future through whatever opportunity presents itself. We have to fight for this now … I think it is better to revolt than to live in a system where our dreams are crushed and nothing works.
An AAPP member, who spoke to RFA on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said most authoritarian regimes would think twice before arresting and punishing their most popular celebrities. country.
“But now [in Myanmar], not only the artists, but the whole country is in jail, ”the source said.
“People are now in a situation where they live in fear, wondering when they might be arrested, killed or have their property looted.”
According to the latest figures from the AAPP, 831 people have been killed in clashes and more than 4,300 people arrested in Myanmar since the February 1 coup. Authorities have issued arrest warrants for more than 1,800 people, the group said.
New death in Demawso
Meanwhile, another day of fighting at a key hotspot resulted in another death in Myanmar’s Kayah state, as junta troops besieged villages in the besieged township of Demawso, sources said.
Residents said the military fired more than 120 heavy artillery rounds in the attack that began Thursday evening and continued the next day, sending thousands to flee into the jungle.
They said a 40-year-old man from the Aung Mingalar neighborhood of Demawso village in Ngwedaung was killed when a shell exploded on his house on Thursday.
“In fact, there was no fight last night. The army has just fired heavy weapons at random at the villages, ”he said.
“At first I thought there was a conflict in the market, but later I found out there wasn’t. They were just shooting us with heavy guns.
Almost four months after the military coup, angry residents of Kayah state organized themselves into the Karenni People’s Defense Force (KPDF). Fighting between the KPDF and junta security forces began on May 22 in Demawso when the KPDF killed three police officers and occupied security posts in the area. Aid groups estimate that some 40,000 people have been displaced since then.
Palan, an aid worker from Demawso, told RFA that the body of the deceased was recovered after the shelling stopped on Friday morning. He claimed that the 102nd and 427th battalions of the junta were responsible for firing artillery into the township.
The KPDF said the military was sending additional troops and ammunition to Kayah state, and nearly 500 troops arrived at the capital Loikaw airport on Friday morning to reinforce bases in the area.
Disastrous refugee situation
According to humanitarian groups, those displaced by the fighting are in dire need of food and medicine.
A refugee, who declined to be named, told RFA that the situation in the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps had become dire.
“There are newborns. There are old people. The jungle environment puts a strain on the health conditions of the weakest and it is very difficult to get food, ”the refugee said.
“There are over 500 refugee camps where I am currently. Along with those from other camps, there must be tens of thousands [of IDPs]. We need food and medicine.
RFA reported that two young civilians were killed by military troops on Thursday as they tried to collect food for refugees displaced by clashes between the junta and the KPDF in Demawso township.
Appeals seeking comment on the situation in Kayah state from the Deputy Minister of Information of the Military Council, General Zaw Min Tun, went unanswered on Friday.
Reported by the Myanmar service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.