Officials detained, celebrities sought as protests continue in Myanmar
(Update 1: Adds arrests and warrants, protests, Anonymous quote, changes headline)
Yangon, Myanmar, Feb 18 (efe-epa).- Eleven Myanmar foreign affairs ministry officials were detained during the early hours of Thursday morning and the military junta issued arrest warrants against several celebrities as protests continued across the country.
The officials were arrested at 4.30 am (19:30 GMT on Wednesday) under the accusation of joining the civil disobedience movement that emerged after the Feb. 1 military coup, a source from the foreign ministry told EFE.
The low-ranking officials were hiding in homes provided by a philanthropic association in the capital Naypyitaw.
The mass strikes started by workers in the health sector and which have spread to many others are paralyzing government services and becoming perhaps the most effective strategy of the civil disobedience movement against the coup. State media each day orders workers to return to their duties.
The military junta also announced that arrest warrants have been issued against celebrities accused of incitement to the civil disobedience movement.
Among the celebrities are popular actors Lu Min, Zin Wine, Pyay Ti Oo, director Na Gyi and singer Anegga, the military reported through its True News information agency Wednesday.
“We’re not gonna stop till the DICTATOR falls !!!!!,” Na Gyi wrote on Facebook on Thursday.
Since the coup, led by General Min Aung Hlaing, and until Wednesday, at least 495 people have been detained, including 35 who have been released, the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners said.
Meanwhile, protests continued throughout the country Wednesday in places such as Yangon, Naypyitaw, Myitkyina, the tourist town of Bagan, and Mandalay. In many places slogans such as “No Dictatorship” and “We want democracy” were painted running down roads in huge letters.
A day after Yangon’s “broken-down car” protest to block military and police vehicles, cars were back up and running, however they crawled along the roads to continue their traffic blockades.
Meanwhile, several government websites, including the Central Bank, public broadcaster MRTV and True News information agency were down Thursday after hackers attacked them overnight.
On its Facebook page, the Myanmar Hackers group said that its targets are the profiles linked to Tatmadaw, as the military is known in the country.
“We are fighting for justice in Myanmar,” the group said.
“Our blog is helping them (hackers) to attack the army sites, military government sites and sites who are standing with Myanmar coup… It is like mass protesting of people in front of government websites,” it added.
Global hacktivist group Anonymous tweeted a video Thursday with a person in a Guy Fawkes mask speaking through a voice changer. He said the “illegitimate government has limited the public’s access to information by placing a curfew on internet access and muzzling the local media.”
“Min Aung Hlaing, release the political fugitives and concede your illegitimate claim to power. Your attempts to divide the nation and incite chaos have not gone unnoticed. We will not stand by while the people of Myanmar are denied their right to a free and democratic political system,” ending its statement with “Expect us.”
The hack coincided with the fourth overnight internet blackout across the country. The London-based internet monitor NetBlocks reported Thursday that the network was available again at 9 am Thursday morning after a disconnection of about 8 hours.
“The practice is detrimental to public safety and incites confusion, fear and distress in difficult times,” said NetBlocks.
The military junta justified its seizure of power by alleging fraud in the November election won by leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party. EFE-EPA