NLD re­searcher’s defama­tion case not com­ing from mil­i­tary higher-ups: com­plainant

The Myanmar Times - - News - ZAW ZAW HTWE za­wza­whtwe@mm­ – Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Pyae Thet Phyo, trans­la­tion by Zaw Nyunt

ONE of the lat­est high-pro­file cases of al­leged defama­tion un­der the Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Law con­tin­ued last week with the com­plainant in­sist­ing he was not act­ing on in­struc­tions from above in a law­suit pit­ting him against a re­searcher for the Na­tional League for Democ­racy.

“There was not any in­struc­tion from the Se­nior Gen­eral [Min Aung Hlaing]. I sued him be­cause of the re­ports from my col­leagues and [be­cause] he in­sulted our armed forces,” said U Lin Tun, the deputy di­rec­tor gen­eral of the Tat­madaw’s Yan­gon Can­ton­ment Area and com­plainant in the case.

He in­sisted that the mil­i­tary was ac­cept­ing of, and wel­comed, crit­i­cisms that were con­struc­tive in in­tent and fact-based.

U Myo Yan Naung Thein, sec­re­tary of the NLD’s Cen­tral Com­mit­tee for Re­search and Strat­egy Stud­ies, is fac­ing trial un­der ar­ti­cle 66(d) of the Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Law for al­legedly de­fam­ing Snr Gen Min Aung Hlaing and the se­cu­rity forces un­der his con­trol. The crit­i­cism of the com­man­der-in-chief’s han­dling of last month’s vi­o­lence in Rakhine State came in the form of an Oc­to­ber 14 Face­book post.

“He [U Myo Yan Naung Thein] wrote the post and in­cited the pub­lic not to re­spect, to hate in­tensely and to rup­ture fealty to­ward the gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing mil­i­tary forces,” U Lin Tun said dur­ing the lat­est hear­ing at Ka­maryut Town­ship Court on Novem­ber 25.

Snr Gen Min Aung Hlaing, the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs, the di­rec­tor gen­eral of the po­lice force and Rakhine State’s se­cu­rity min­is­ter were all de­famed by the Face­book post, U Lin Tun con­tends.

The Yan­gon Can­ton­ment Area of­fi­cial is ap­par­ently par­tic­u­larly sen­si­tive to the Tat­madaw’s im­age: He was also the com­plainant in a case ear­lier this year against 7Day Daily that ac­cused the news­pa­per of abet­ting “mutiny” in a story it pub­lished that quoted for­mer gen­eral Thura U Shwe Mann. That suit was even­tu­ally dropped.

U Kyaw Hoe, the NLD re­searcher’s lawyer, cross-ex­am­ined the com­plainant on Novem­ber 25. U Lin Tun said he had brought his suit un­der the Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Law be­cause he be­lieved it would be “more ef­fec­tive” than pros­e­cut­ing un­der other defama­tion statutes on the books, ac­cord­ing to U Kyaw Hoe.

He told me­dia at last week’s hear­ing that he was seek­ing bail – or to have the case thrown out al­to­gether – on the grounds that the com­plainant had not ob­tained “prior sanc­tion” by the Min­istry of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions to bring the case, as re­quired by ar­ti­cle 80 of the Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Law.

Speak­ing to re­porters at the court­house on Novem­ber 25, U Myo Yan Naung Thein said he did not have con­fi­dence in prospects for a fair trial, given past prece­dents and “in­flu­ences above the law”.

“I have found that many peo­ple in jail were im­pris­oned un­fairly. They all should be re­leased. One out of ev­ery two cases is un­fair and their cases should be re­viewed,” he said.

The de­fen­dant said since be­ing de­tained, his wife’s Gmail and Face­book ac­counts had been hacked, adding that he feared for her safety.

Ar­ti­cle 66(d) of the Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Law has come un­der in­creas­ing scru­tiny in re­cent months as cases con­tinue to land Face­book users in pri­son for their on­line con­duct.

U Thant Zin Maung, Union min­is­ter for trans­port and com­mu­ni­ca­tion, said last week that he had “no com­ment” on the law or prospects for its re­vi­sion.

“We have to act ac­cord­ing to the ex­ist­ing law,” he said in Nay Pyi Taw on Novem­ber 23, while later adding, “Ac­tu­ally, that sec­tion is strange. I feel quite un­sat­is­fied [about it] in my mind.”

U Myo Yan Naung Thein’s next hear­ing is sched­uled for De­cem­ber 2.

Photo: Nyan Zay Htet

U Myo Yan Naung Thein (in green) at­tends a hear­ing at Ka­maryut Town­ship Court on Novem­ber 17.

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