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Myanmar court jails celebrities who supported democracy protests

The military
overthrew an elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb 1, triggering
protests and turmoil that is still unfolding.

In the early
days of the protests, huge crowds gathered in cities and towns with many actors
and singers using social media to voice their support and some speaking at
rallies.

Among those
who took part were high-profile actor couple Pyay Ti Oo and Eaindra Kyaw Zin,
who were arrested in April and charged under a section of the penal code that
outlaws the spreading of dissent.

A court in
the main city of Yangon jailed them for three years with hard labour, the
Mizzima news agency and the BBC’s Burmese-language service reported.

Reuters was
not able to contact the court or the couple’s lawyers for comment. A spokesman
for the military junta did not answer a call seeking comment.

Famous
actor-director Lu Min, who has starred in more than 1,000 films, received the
same sentence on the same charge, Mizzima and the BBC reported. Reuters was not
able to contact his lawyer.

Another
celebrity, male model Paing Takhon, was sentenced to three years in jail with
hard labour on Monday, according to his lawyer.

Myanmar has
a thriving arts and entertainment scene. Much of the theatre and music is
rooted in traditional themes but Burmese-language cover versions of Asian and
Western pop songs are hugely popular and young Myanmar singers and actors have
big followings.

At least
1,377 people have been killed and more than 11,000 jailed in a crackdown on
protests and armed opposition since the coup, according to a tally by the Association
for Assistance of Political Prisoners.

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The military
government disputes those numbers and says soldiers have also been killed in
clashes.

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