YANGON—A court in Yangon’s Botahtaung Township on Tuesday granted bail to five political activists charged by the head of the Botahtaung Township Police Force for harming public servants under sections 332 and 353 of the Penal Code.
The lawsuit followed a confrontation between police and sympathizers of a thangyat troupe on trial for defamation in the Botahtaung Township court on May 20.
In April, the military opened cases against the five members of the Peacock Generation satirical performance group for defamation under Article 505(a) of the Penal Code. The troupe had performed a number of Thangyat songs that criticized the military’s role in politics during Myanmar’s New Year celebrations.
Article 505(a) makes it a crime to engage in activity that is seen as undermining the military. It carries a maximum two-year prison sentence.
Ma Nilar Thein of 88-Generation Peace and Open Society and four student activists were sued for harming public servants on duty with the intention of disrupting the discharging of their duties. If convicted on all charges they face a maximum five-year sentence plus possible fines.
“We were released on a 2-million-kyat bail each,” said Ko Nan Linn, one of the four student activists.
The argument occurred when sympathizers objected to the handcuffing of the troupe members as they were taken from Insein Prison to the court on May 20, according to Ko Nan Linn, who said police told the sympathizers they were pressured by the military to handcuff the defendants.
Later, when one of the sympathizers tried to talk to the press in front of the Botahtaung Township court, police grabbed her from behind and dragged, leading to a confrontation between police and sympathizers, Ko Nan Linn said.
“We didn’t intend to disrupt them from performing their duties, but as they used force to stop us under the pressure of the military, this caused a confrontation. This happened because of them,” he said.
Ma Shar Yamone, one of the sympathizers charged, said, “We will face the trial, but it seems that, to the Home Affairs Ministry and the judicial sector, the law is only meant to protect those in power and not the people.”