Burma Army Files Article 66(d) Lawsuit Over Satirical Piece

By Tin Htet Paing 17 May 2017

RANGOON — The Burma Army has filed a lawsuit against the chief editor and a columnist of The Voice Daily newspaper under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunication’s Law over a satirical article questioning the country’s peace process, according to the paper’s executive editor.

The article titled ‘Kyi Htaung Su Thitsar’—meaning ‘Oath Made in a Nation of Bullets’—was written by the paper’s regular columnist who goes by the pen name British Ko Ko Maung and published on March 26.

The title was a play on the army-produced film ‘Pyi Htaung Su Thitsar’—translated as ‘Union Oath’—that commemorated the country’s 72nd Armed Forces Day and aired on state- and military-owned channels in early March.

Ko Aung Soe, the paper’s executive editor, told The Irrawaddy they received a letter from Rangoon’s Bahan Township police station on Wednesday, summoning the chief editor Ko Kyaw Min Swe and the satirist Ko Ko Maung, also known as Ko Kyaw Zwa Naing.

The lawsuit comes amid meditation held by the Myanmar Press Council between the paper and the military, which complained to the council about the article just before the Thingyan holidays in April.

The piece suggested that ethnic armed groups in the long-running civil war are united only in fighting one another. It said people in Burma do not need to leave the country to fight wars when they are a day’s drive away from the frontline.

Lower-ranking soldiers die in ongoing battles while the leaders of armed groups hold peace talks and exchange smiles, Ko Ko Maung wrote.

In defense of the piece, he said it did not name specific institutions, groups, or the army, but satirized the generic situation of all the armed groups.

“I will respond to the lawsuit through legal channels,” he told The Irrawaddy, adding that he would not apologize for doing what he believes in as a writer.

The Voice Daily published a note in its May 14 edition expressing its regret for the army’s complaint. It stated that the article was humorous, constructive and did not intend to harm the image of the Burma Army or any other ethnic armed groups.

The press council’s code states it has to take action within 15 days of receiving a complaint and settle a dispute between parties within 60 days.

Deputy chairman of the council, Dr. Myo Thant Tin, said the council was not aware of the lawsuit until The Irrawaddy contacted him for comment on Wednesday.

He said the mediation process between the paper and the military has not finished and there would be a meeting with the paper’s representative on Thursday about the complaint.