Since “day one” of the military coup, Burmese actress Paing Phyo Thu – one of the country’s highest-paid stars – says she has been on the streets opposing the ruling junta.
One of Myamar’s highest-paid actresses, she has been offering financial help to striking staff who have given up their jobs to take part in the growing civil disobedience movement, known as CDM.
But on Thursday, the Myanmar Academy Award winner and her director husband, Na Gyi, went into hiding after his name appeared on an arrest list, along with a number of other celebrities who have been accused of using their platform to oppose the coup.
A police statement on Wednesday said Na Gyi, two other prominent directors, two actors and a singer, were wanted for “using their popularity and encouraging responsible civil servants to participate in CDM, encouraging civil servants to participate in protests.”
The notice from the governing State Administration Council said information on the whereabouts of the actor Payeti Oo, Director Ko Pauk, actor Lu Min, director Wine, director Na Gyi and singer Anatga was needed by the Myanmar Police Force.
They are being sought under a section of the country’s penal code that was amended this week by coup-leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, in an apparent effort to target protesters, journalists and critics of the takeover.
Section 505a makes it a crime to “hinder, disturb, damage the motivation, discipline, health, conduct” of government employees and military personnel and “and cause their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty” toward the government or military.
Paing Phyo Thu said that while “we know that it’s very dangerous to speak out like this,” she won’t stop – despite the arrest warrant and being forced into hiding.
“We can talk about our opinions, we don’t mind because since day one of the military coup, we’ve been talking about it on our social media platforms because we want the audience to know that we’re with them and nobody likes this. It’s such an unfair thing,” she said.
“There’s no turning back. We’ve decided we’re going to do this, we will fight to the end.”
For more than 50 years, Myanmar had been ruled by a series of isolationist dictators that plunged the country further into poverty and brutally crushed any form of dissent. In 2011, the military began opening the country up and put in place reforms that allowed for democratic elections in 2015, in which ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi won a landslide and formed the first civilian government since 1962.
“Everyone can see the development. For example, all the roads and education – everything was going towards a brighter destination. We’ve been ruled by the dictators for so long,” said Paing Phyo Thu. “Then there was a military coup and we felt like we lost our freedom, and we lost our democracy, and we just don’t want to go back to the dark age.”
News of Na Gyi’s arrest warrant came after hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Yangon and other cities Wednesday, in the biggest demonstration since the February 1 coup.
In Mandalay, security forces opened fire as they confronted railway workers who had stopped trains running as part of the civil disobedience movement, Reuters reported. Residents said one person was wounded but it is unclear what type of munitions were alleged to have been used, the report said.
In downtown Yangon, thousands of people chanting and holding placards emblazoned with Suu Kyi’s image and banners reading “Justice for Myanmar” and “Reject the military coup” marched to Sule Pagoda, calling for her release and for the military to hand power back to civilian control.
The mass march was called in response to a second charge filed against Suu Kyi Tuesday. Her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said that she had been charged in relation to a national disaster law, in addition to an earlier count under the country’s import and export act.