Myanmar Junta Opens Legal Front in Its Crackdown on Dissent

By The Irrawaddy 6 April 2021

In a sweeping attempt to intimidate critics and stifle public dissent, Myanmar’s military regime has launched a campaign to take legal action under incitement laws against anyone who voices opposition to the junta online. The targets so far have included celebrities, journalists, social influencers, activists and even popular makeup artists.

For the past few evenings, the military-controlled state media have reeled off a lengthy list of names of those against whom cases have been filed under Section 505(a) of the Penal Code. Many of them are public figures. Anyone convicted under the article faces three years’ imprisonment.

Myanmar has been convulsed by nationwide anti-regime protests since the military grabbed power in a coup in February. People have used the country’s most popular social media platform, Facebook, to share protest-related information, warn of possible crackdowns, call for donations, and even notify each other of troop movements, among other things. Most of the country’s celebrities, artists and social influencers have not only taken part in the protests but also publicly and actively denounced the regime on their pages, most of which have large numbers of followers.

As of Monday, at least 60 people had been sued under Section 505(a), and the regime has promised there will be more to come.

One of those on the list is Phway Phway, one of the country’s most popular actresses. She seemed undeterred by the lawsuit.

“As a Myanmar person, I have never regretted what I have done and said. I will always be faithful to my principles and people. Please take care everyone,” said she on her Facebook page.

Film director Htoo Paing Zaw Oo learned he had been sued by the regime when it announced another list of sued individual on Sunday, but said he had expected it.

“I did it not just as an artist but as a citizen, because I believe every individual is supposed to act as a good citizen. Take care everyone. See you again to celebrate our success!” he said.

Following the announcement, the regime’s Information Ministry sent a directive to local TV channels ordering them not to air programming featuring figures on the list.

Apart from filing lawsuits, the regime has also issued arrest warrants for some artists and celebrities, forcing them to go into hiding. Director cum actor Lu Min has been detained since February for encouraging civil servants not to work for the military regime.


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