Arrest over Facebook Post a Case of Mistaken Identity, Defendant Says

By The Irrawaddy 16 February 2016

RANGOON — An individual arrested last week over a Facebook post that allegedly defames the government and the military has said he is not the suspect in question—a user under the name of Kyat Pha Gyi.

In the latest case of defamation involving social media, Hla Phone of Rangoon’s Mayangone Township was arrested on Feb. 10 for allegedly sharing a post online deemed critical of the military and the outgoing government.

He appeared before Mayangone Township Court on Monday.

“I am not Kyat Pha Gyi. I was wrongly arrested,” the 38-year old told the media on Monday.

The defendant is reportedly a sailor and is being charged for defamation under Article 66(d) of Burma’s Telecommunications Law, the same law under which several cases have been prosecuted in recent months.

National League for Democracy supporter Chaw Sandi Tun was sentenced to six months’ jail in December over a Facebook post that likened military uniforms to women’s apparel.

Last month, Kachin aid worker Patrick Khum Jaa Lee also received a six month sentence for allegedly sharing a photo of a man dressed in traditional Kachin attire stomping on an image of Burma Army chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing.

Another Facebook user was criticized by Burmese netizens earlier this month after he posted comments threatening violence if a constitutional clause barring Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency was amended.

In Hla Phone’s case, a complaint was filed by Lt-Col Soe Win Maw of Rangoon Command.

The complaint states that “Kyat Pha Gyi’s account has been defaming the army chief, the military and the president by posting photoshopped pictures and text,” according to Rangoon Western District Police Office, where the complaint was made.

Kyat Pha Gyi’s Facebook account is still active and on Tuesday—nearly a week after Hla Phone’s arrest—a new post appeared reading: “I was sorry for Ko Hla Phone who has been mistaken […] as Kyat Pha Gyi. Please pray for him.”

At the end of the post, the account user disclosed his name: “Kyaw Kyaw Min a.k.a. Kyat Pha Gyi.”

The defendant’s lawyer Robert San Aung said if the plaintiff can provide evidence, the trial will go ahead.

“If not, they have to release him,” he told the media after Monday’s court appearance.