‘Big rooster’ given two years for defamation
The social media satirist was slapped with a two-year prison sentence in relation to several posts taking aim at senior members of the previous government leadership.
THE Mayangone Township Court has found Ko Hla Phone guilty of defaming top government officials in a series of Facebook posts, with the judge handing down a two-year prison sentence for the offending insults.
The case was opened earlier this year by Lieutenant Colonel Soe Win Maw of the Yangon Region Command under the Telecommunications Law and other criminal statutes.
A string of posts from the Facebook account of “Kyat Pha Gyi” – meaning “big rooster” in Myanmar language – from October 2015 to February took aim at senior members of the previous government leadership. One proclaimed, “Fuck 25 percent”, an apparent reference to the one-quarter allotment of militarily appointed seats in parliament, alongside an emage of a dog defecating on Senior General U Min Aung Hlaing.
Then-President U Thein Sein was also the subject of the account owner’s derision.
Throughout his trial, Ko Hla Phone had denied that the account is his, a position he reiterated to journalists after the guilty verdict was handed down on November 11.
“I am the victim. I am not the owner of that [Facebook] account. As it is, I will continue defending myself,” Ko Hla Phone said when he was brought to the courthouse last week.
His lawyer, U Robert San Aung, posted on Facebook that they would appeal the ruling.
In defence of his client’s claims, U Robert San Aung pointed out that the offending Facebook account continued to make similar disparaging posts after Ko Hla Phone was arrested and denied bail, depriving him of access to an internet-enabled device, the lawyer’s argument goes.
Ko Hla Phone’s actual Facebook account is under the name “Ko Phone”, according to U Robert San Aung.
Last week’s verdict saw the defendant found guilty of four charges and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for each. The charges included section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law, covering defamation, and the penal code’s section 505(b), committing “an offence against the State or against public tranquillity”, as well as a violation of a Union Flag Law provision on respecting the national banner.
The nine months that Ko Hla Phone spent behind bars as the trial proceeded will be deducted from his two-year sentence.
Under the National League for Democracy government, online conduct has continued to land Myanmar nationals in prison, particularly via the Telecommunications Law’s defamation provision. Last week Yangon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein announced that he had filed a lawsuit against the CEO and chief editor of Eleven Media Group over a story in which the news outlet implied an unsavoury link between himself and a local businessman.
The accused turned themselves in to police on November 11 and remain detained awaiting trial.
– Translation by Kyawt Darly Lin
‘I am the victim. I am not the owner of that [Facebook] account ... I will continue defending myself.’ Ko Hla Phone Defendant in ‘big rooster’ case