Myanmar army hunts protest backers over social media comments

A demonstrator is detained by police officers during a protest against the military coup in Mawlamyine, Myanmar

Myanmar’s army is hunting for seven well-known supporters of protests against this month’s coup and they face charges over comments on social media that threaten national stability, the army said on Saturday.

Among those named was Min Ko Naing, a one-time leader of bloodily suppressed protests in 1988, who has made calls supporting the street demonstrations and a civil disobedience campaign.

All seven are opponents of the Feb. 1 coup in which the military took over and elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi was detained. The majority are also supporters of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

The announcement came on the eighth day of protests across the Southeast Asian country against the coup, which halted an unsteady transition to democracy that began in 2011 and roused fears of a return to an earlier era of repression.

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 on its Facebook page on Saturday.

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”.

“I am so proud to have a warrant issued along with Min Ko Naing. Catch me if you can,” said one of those named, NLD lobbyist Ei Pencilo, on her Facebook page, which has over 1.6 million followers.

The United Nations human rights office said on Friday more than 350 people have been arrested in Myanmar since the coup.

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. “Her son is in trouble now since she was breastfeeding him. She didn’t even get chance to put on her shoes before they took her.”

The government did not respond to requests for comment.

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