Woman Faces 5 Years over Photo Likening Army Garb to Suu Kyi’s Dress

By Salai Thant Zin 13 October 2015

PATHEIN, Irrawaddy Division — A young woman was brought to trial in Irrawaddy Division on Tuesday after sharing a satirical post on social media deemed to be insulting to Burma’s military.

Twenty-five-year-old Chaw Sandi Tun, also known as Chit Thami, last week took to Facebook to share a digitally photo collage of Aung San Suu Kyi wearing a green traditional htamein, Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing and other military service personnel donning newly redesigned uniforms.

The post compared the new military garb to the apparel of the renowned opposition leader, who chairs the National League for Democracy (NLD) and once served nearly two decades of house arrest under the former military junta.

A text transposed on the image read: “[They] like the color of the longyi of Aunti Suu [Aung San Suu Kyi], so they had it tailored and are now wearing it.”

The image hit a nerve in Burma’s conservative society, where it is considered an insult to imply that a man would wear htamein, the woman’s version of the traditional Burmese sarong known as longyi.

A Burma Army general staff officer, Lt-Col Kyaw Htin of the Southwest Command in Pathein, filed the suit against Chaw Sandi Tun on Oct. 12 under article 34 (d) of Burma’s Electronic Transactions Law. The vague provision, which carries penalties of up to five years in prison, outlaws altering digital information in such a way that would defame “any organization or any person.”

After her arrest on Monday evening at a meditation center in Rangoon, Chaw Sandi Tun was taken to the Maubin police station where she has since been in custody. She was brought to trial at noon on Tuesday and will return on Oct. 27, according to a member of the local students’ union that is assisting her case.

Chaw Sandi Tun, who earned a Bachelor’s degree in technology, is a former member of the Maubinn District Students’ Union and took part in student demonstrations against a new National Education Law earlier this year in Irrawaddy Division. She has since resigned from the students’ union and joined the local chapter of the NLD, and now works on the party’s election campaign.

The head of the Maubin Police Force, Pol-Lt Thein AUng, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that he could not provide any comment or further clarification about the case because he didn’t get permission.”

Chaw Sandi Tun is at least the second person to be arrested this year after sharing a satirical online post viewed as critical of the military. In February, police arrested Aung Nay Myo, a freelance photographer in Monywa, after he posted a satirical photo on his Facebook page that reportedly mocked Burmese officials. He was released after three days of interrogation.