Yangon, February 18: Chaotic situation post-military coup in Myanmar did not show any signs of normalcy on Thursday. Myanmar’s military junta issued arrest warrants against six celebrities while anti-coup hackers targetted government websites. The celebrities face allegations of encouraging strikes that have paralysed many government offices. Nearly 500 people have been arrested so far. The army announced late on Wednesday that six celebrities, including film directors, actors and a singer, were wanted under an anti-incitement law for encouraging civil servants to join in the protest.
The charges can carry a two-year prison sentence.
Some of those on the list were defiant.
“It’s amazing to see the unity of our people. People’s power must return to the people,” actor Lu Min posted on his Facebook page.
Thousands of chanting protesters gathered on Thursday at a busy intersection near the main university in Yangon
Students were also due to gather in a different part of the city to protests against the Feb. 1 coup and detention of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The street marches have been more peaceful than bloodily suppressed demonstrations in a previous half-century of army rule, but they and the civil disobedience movement have had a crippling effect on much official business.
In the second-biggest city of Mandalay, protesters rallied to demand the release of two officials arrested in the coup.
Civil servants are striking and there are no signs of the strike easing in spite of appeals from military junta to resume work.
Meanwhile, anti-coup hackers attacked Myanmar government websites to protest against the coup.
A group called Myanmar Hackers disrupted websites including the Central Bank, the Myanmar military’s propaganda page, state-run broadcaster MRTV, the Port Authority, and the Food and Drug Administration.
“We are fighting for justice in Myanmar,” the group said on its Facebook page.
“It is like mass protesting of people in front of government websites.”
Cybersecurity expert Matt Warren from Australia’s RMIT University said it was likely the aim was to generate publicity.
“The sorts of attacks they would be undertaking are denial of service attacks or defacing websites which is called hacktivism,” he told AFP.
“The impact will be potentially limited but what they are doing is raising awareness.”
Internet access was severely curtailed for the fourth night running at about 1:00 am on Thursday (1830 GMT Wednesday), according to NetBlocks, a Britain-based group that monitors internet outages around the world.
It said connectivity had dropped to just 21 per cent of ordinary levels and was restored eight hours later ahead of the start of the working day.
“The practice is detrimental to public safety and incites confusion, fear and distress in difficult times,” NetBlocks tweeted.
Myanmar military blocks internet for third consecutive night amid protests
Myanmar experienced another night of internet blackout as the net continued to be shut for the third consecutive day on Wednesday as protests continued against the military junta’s coup.
Opponents of Myanmar’s military coup called for big protests on Wednesday to show that the army’s claim of widespread public support amid charges against leader Aung San Suu Kyi who has been detained since February 1 when the military took control of the country in an early morning coup.
Suu Kyi faces charge of violating the Natural Disaster Management Law as well as charges of illegally importing six walkie talkie radios. Her case was held by video conference on Tuesday, her next hearing was set for March 1.
“Let’s gather in millions to take down the dictators,” wrote activist Khin Sandar on Facebook.
Kyi Toe, a senior member of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party who has not yet been arrested, said “let’s march en masse. Let’s show our force against the coup government that has destroyed the future of youth, the future of our country.”
The Army’s takeover has drawn strong Western criticism with renewed anger from the United States and the UK over additional charge for Suu Kyi. Although China has dismissed accusations it supported the coup.
Hundreds of people have been rounded up by the army since the coup many of them in night-time raids. Those arrested include several top NLD’s senior leadership.
Reports say at least 450 people have been arrested since the coup earlier this month. A third night of internet blackout meant no news emerged of any arrests early on Wednesday.
The army had alleging voter fraud in the November 8 election which was rejected by the electoral commission. The military has declared a state of emergency for one year after taking over power.
“Our objective is to hold an election and hand power to the winning party,” Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun, spokesman for the ruling council, told the junta’s first news conference since overthrowing Suu Kyi’s government.
General Tun gave no time frame but said the army will not be in power for long.
The last stretch of army rule lasted nearly half a century before democratic reforms in 2011.
(wion With AFP inputs)