The military in Myanmar has ordered more arrests even as nearly 500 individuals are facing charges or sentenced to jail in relation to the burgeoning protests and civil disobedience movement in the country following the February 1 coup.
Some 495 civilian political leaders, activists and protesters have so far been detained or charged, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which has been tracking detentions in the country over the past two weeks, said in an update on Wednesday night.
Three people have already been convicted to two years in jail and a third for three months, the group said. Some 460 people remain in detention.
Among those arrested in recent days was a regional minister of environment in Mandalay, while four train operators and two others were reportedly taken at gunpoint by the military, and three were arrested by police in Rakhine.
Eight civil servants were also put on trial on Wednesday for going on strike as part of a growing civil disobedience movement.
It is unclear if the AAPP list includes six celebrities, who are said to have been charged for inciting strikes that have paralysed many government offices. Those charges can carry up to two years in jail.
The Defend Lawyers website also reported that at least 40 barristers could face prosecution for participating in the anti-coup movement. Many of the country’s lawyers have join the Red Ribbon Campaign calling for the restoration of democracy in the country.
Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders (also known as MSF) said on Thursday that it is “gravely concerned” about the recent arrests and detentions of health care workers and other civilians.
It said the government’s actions “have the potential to severely interrupt the lifesaving health care” that MSF and others have been providing to some of the most vulnerable people in the country, particularly in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Wednesday, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in the biggest anti-coup demonstrations since the generals detained Aung San Suu Kyi and the popularly elected government to seize power more than two weeks ago.
The generals have claimed fraud in the November election that was won by Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) in a landslide, saying they will hold new elections at an unspecified date. The elections commission has rejected claims of fraud.
The rallies have brought sporadic incidents of violence.
The AAPP accused the military and the police in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-biggest city, of destroying a house belonging to one of the anti-coup protesters, leaving at least one person injured.
There were also reports that government forces opened fire at protesters and striking railway workers in Mandalay late on Wednesday.
Early on Thursday, there were also reports that hackers had attacked military-run websites as the internet was shut down for a fourth straight night.
A group called Myanmar Hackers disrupted multiple government websites including the Central Bank, the Myanmar military, state-run broadcaster MRTV, the Port Authority and the Food and Drug Administration.
“We are fighting for justice in Myanmar,” the group of hackers said on its Facebook page.
“It is like mass protesting of people in front of government websites.”
Another internet shutdown began in Myanmar at about 1:00am local time on Thursday (18:30 GMT on Wednesday), according to NetBlocks, a United Kingdom-based group that monitors internet disruption and outages around the world. It said the service was once again restored eight hours later.
“The practice is detrimental to public safety and incites confusion, fear and distress in difficult times.”