Myanmar’s ruling junta on Tuesday (Sep 20) warned the public against showing moral support for a “terrorist” resistance movement, threatening jail terms of up to 10 years just for liking or sharing its content on social media.
Myanmar has been plagued by violence since the military seized power early last year, with clashes on multiple fronts between junta forces and militias allied with a shadow government and pro-democracy groups.
The junta’s information minister and spokesperson Zaw Min Tin said “terrorists” were seeking funds to kill innocent people in their campaign to destabilise the country, so support for them would be dealt with severely.
He said social media endorsements of the National Unity Government (NUG) or its armed affiliates, the People’s Defence Forces (PDF), could lead to prison terms of three to 10 years, and worse for those providing even small amounts of money.
“If you donate money or support terrorists and their acts, you will face harsher punishments. We’re doing this to protect innocent civilians,” he told a televised news briefing, which included a presentation detailing the penalties for aiding resistance groups.
Since the coup, opponents of the military have used social media platforms to try to communicate their message more widely, with citizen journalists often posting images of protests and alleged atrocities by the army.
The United Nations has accused the junta of mass killings and crimes against humanity in its crackdown on opponents since its coup last year. Thousands have been arrested and many imprisoned during secret trials.
It recently executed four democracy activists, accusing them of facilitating attacks by militia groups.
International calls have grown for deeper engagement with NUG and for it to be included in any peace process in Myanmar, which the junta refuses to allow, citing the need to restore order.
The UN Human Rights office in a report last week called for the military to be isolated further and said it had failed to govern the country in a meaningful and sustainable way, or resolve a “profound financial sector crisis”.