Nay Myo Zin, a Burmese social activist, was sentenced to three months in prison on Thursday on charges of defaming Irrawaddy Division police officers, after he had publicly remarked that there was corruption among the Burmese police force.
“He was charged for talking to the public about corrupted police officials at a public meeting and taken to Maubin Prison” in Irrawaddy Division, the defendant’s lawyer Robert San Aung said.
After a 4-month trial Pantanaw Township Court sentenced Nay Myo Zin to a 20,000 kyat (US $22) fine on defamation charges under section 500 of the Penal Code, said San Aung, who works for HLC, a law firm that regularly provides legal support to activists.
“The verdict states that if he does not pay the fine, he will have to go to prison for three months. And he chose to accept the prison sentence,” the lawyer said. “He said that he will not pay the fine because he was speaking on behalf of the public and the court decided that he was guilty.”
Pantanaw Township police lodged a complaint against the activist after he addressed a group of farmers there in January. Nay Myo Zin told the farmers, who were protesting against a forced confiscation of their land, not to be afraid of “corrupted police officers.”
The police subsequently accused him of defaming all police officers in Irrawaddy Division. Pantanaw Township second lieutenant Htun Htun, together with the local authorities, acted as the plaintiff at the court.
But Nay Myo Zin told the court that he was just referring to the issue of corruption among polices officers and did not mean that all public servants are corrupted, according to a copy of his trial statement posted on his Facebook page.
For many years, international rights groups and lawyers have accused Burma’s police force of being corrupt and serving interests of authorities and politically-connected businessmen, who grab resources such as land, while the courts have been accused of lacking independence.
Shortly after his sentencing Nay Myo Zin wrote in a Facebook post that he would rather go to prison then pay an unjust fine, adding that he would not use the money people had collected for him as it should be used “for the development of the poor.”
Nay Myo Zin is a former military captain who left the army to become an activist and opposition member. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in August 2011 for allegedly breaking the Electronic Transactions Act, Article 33(a).
He was pardoned in January 2012 and soon after his release he formed the Myanmar Social Development Network, a civil society organization that supports healthcare, informal education and farming communities.