Myanmar’s military leaders have revoked the citizenship of top members of the main group coordinating resistance to army rule.
The announcement broadcast on state-run MRTV television said 11 leaders of the opposition to military rule have had their citizenship terminated because they had allegedly fled the country and harmed the national interest.
The ruling military council targeted eight members of the shadow National Unity Government (NUG), which views itself as the country’s legitimate ruling authority, and three prominent activists.
The NUG was established by elected legislators who were barred from taking their seats when the military seized power on February 1 last year, ousting the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Resistance to the takeover has now led to what some UN experts have characterised as a civil war.
At least two members of the NUG cabinet named in the announcement responded on Twitter on Saturday.
Aung Myo Min, the human rights minister who has been traveling in Europe to seek support for the Myanmar resistance movement, said the announcement was illegal because the military council is not the legitimate government.
“Ceasing citizenship of Cabinet members by terrorist military junta is just a joke. Nothing can stop our love to our country,” Aung Myo Min wrote.
The group’s foreign minister, Zin Mar Aung, wrote: “Just because coupmakers pretending to be a government and strip away my citizenship does not make me love Myanmar less. They do not have the rights to strip people’s citizenship away.”
The other eight opposition cabinet members named in the military’s announcement have been charged with high treason, which carries a potential death penalty, and other political offences.
The three activists were Min Ko Naing, a leader of a failed 1988 uprising against a previous military dictatorship, Eaint Poe Ou, also known as Pencilo, and Myo Yan Naung Thein.
The “Termination of Citizenship” announcement said it was issued according to the 1982 Myanmar citizenship law, and that “similar perpetrators will be identified and prosecuted”.
Most NUG leaders are believed to be in hiding in border areas controlled by armed ethnic minority groups sympathetic to them, while others operate from abroad.