Anyone in Myanmar who has given just one kyat in financial support to anti-junta groups or engages in anti-junta content on social media now faces two years in prison until execution, a military regime spokesman said.
Deputy Information Minister Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun told reporters at a news conference in the capital Naypyidaw on Tuesday that donating to or supporting the shadow government of the Myanmar National Unity (NUG), the lawmakers of the Committee representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) or the anti-junta People’s Defense Force (PDF) paramilitary group is punishable under Myanmar’s anti-terrorism law.
Buying government bonds or lottery tickets for the groups is also subject to punishment, he said, adding that “donating just a single kyat” — about one five-hundredth of a U.S. cent — could earn the offender a minimum of ten years behind bars. .
“Whether you ‘lick’ or ‘share’ [an anti-junta social media post]you are violating Article 124(b) of the Criminal Code [for incitement to destroy the state]. You can be sentenced anywhere from three years to ten years in prison and you can also be fined,” Zaw Min Tun said.
“The reason you get a prison sentence of 10 years or the death penalty for donating just one kyat is because it is against [the Anti-Terrorism Act]. You have to understand that. Even if you don’t understand the law, the law won’t forgive you.”
In addition to violating Myanmar’s counter-terrorism law and inciting the public against the state, Zaw Min Tun also said such actions violate the country’s electronic communications law. Conviction on the charges is punishable by a minimum penalty of two years imprisonment and a maximum death penalty.
A resident of the commercial capital Yangon, who declined to name names for security reasons, told RFA Burmese that the junta is trying to deter opposition support through threats.
“These tyrants will do everything in their power to prevent people from supporting the opposition, but the people will do what they can to support them,” she said.
“The more they make life difficult for us, the closer we get to victory” [against the regime]. It might be a little challenging now [to support the opposition]but we will make sure we can help them.”
An experienced Supreme Court lawyer told RFA on condition of anonymity that while providing support to anti-junta movements could be prosecuted, Myanmar’s law says nothing about jailing people for liking social media posts.
“Give likes [online] is our right. It is already mentioned in the provisions of civil rights and the basic rights of citizens under the [military-drafted] Constitution of 2008,” he said.
“Based on what [Zaw Min Tun] said, action can be taken against someone because of the content of their comment or even the way the text is written.
‘Facing a crisis’
A spokesman for the Dawei Ashaytaw PDF group in the Tanintharyi region said the junta is threatening people with legal provisions because the leadership fears the general public will take up arms to challenge its rule.
“We have witnessed the rising death toll of military soldiers in the Sagaing and Magwe regions,” he said.
“We believe there is a lack of unity within the military. And so they make threats to raise morale within the military and deter the people.”
The spokesman warned that such threats could lead to a drop in domestic contributions to the armed opposition.
Political analyst Than Soe Naing called the junta’s statements “illegal and excessive.”
“They talk too much about the law. But as usual, the law is what they say it is,” he said.
“So if those laws are used as a basis for action, we have to say that democracy in Myanmar has fallen completely in the dark.”
Kyaw Zaw, spokesman for the office of NUG President Duwa Lashi La, told RFA that the junta is becoming increasingly desperate in its actions.
“All they can do now is threaten and terrorize the public. And that’s what they do,” he said.
“To say that people will be arrested and charged for donating a single kyat… is because they are facing a crisis. They are afraid because they are in their last hour. They know they are going to lose and they know what is coming.”
According to the Thai NGO Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), the junta authorities have arrested nearly 15,600 civilians since the military seized power in a coup d’état on Feb. 1, 2021, of whom nearly 12,500 have been convicted or remain in prison. The group says authorities have killed more than 2,300 civilians in the past 20 months, mostly during peaceful anti-junta protests.
Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.