SITTWE, Rakhine State — A Rakhine court sentenced a member of the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) to 18 months in prison on Thursday for allegedly defaming the Myanmar Army.
“My imprisonment is the imprisonment of the NCA [nationwide ceasefire agreement],” said Ko Khaing Myo Tun, deputy information officer of the ALP, who was found guilty of two defamation charges under the Article 505(b) and (c) of the Penal Code at Sittwe Township Court.
This broadly defined charge punishes those who spread or make statements that can “alarm the public” or “whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the state.” The charge was widely used to crush dissent under the former military regime.
“Because the whole country is moving forward to 21st Century Panglong with the NCA. The jailing of a representative like me who is moving forward with the NCA and 21st Century Panglong is like jailing the NCA,” added Ko Khaing Myo Tun.
He was prosecuted by the military after the ALP’s information department issued a statement on April 24, 2016 covering the clashes between the Arakan Army (AA) and the military on April 16 in Rakhine State.
The statement accused the military of torturing Rakhine locals and forcing them in to labor. Tatmadaw troops also killed and ate poultry raised by locals, according to the statement.
General Staff Officer (Grade-1) Lt-Col Tint Naing Tun of Sittwe Regional Operations Command then filed a lawsuit with Sittwe Township Court against Ko Khaing Myo Tun, saying the statement was misleading and damaging to the military’s reputation. He also said the statement was liable of spreading misinformation to cause public panic.
There were more than 40 court hearings for the case. Ko Khaing Myo Tun spent 14 months in detention facing trial. As the detention period is deducted from his jail term, he will be released in four months.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.