RANGOON — The Burma Army has filed a lawsuit against local media outlet 7 Day Daily for publishing a story in April which included former general Shwe Mann’s message to graduates of the Defense Services Academy, claiming the story could lead to the disintegration of the military.
The 7 Day Daily newspaper printed comments in which Shwe Mann urged his colleagues to work for the country’s new elected democratic government.
Shwe Mann, who served as the third highest-ranking general in the country’s former military regime—and as the joint chief of staff of Burma’s army, navy and air force—posted the message on his Facebook page on April 23.
“The government chosen and entrusted by the people is now serving the duties with responsibility and accountability,” wrote Shwe Mann, now a close ally of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and head of the Union Parliament’s Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission. “It is the right time for our brothers to cooperate [with the National League for Democracy’s 2015 election victory] with much rejoicing.”
Two days later, the army’s information department responded to the statement, calling it an attempt to divide the armed forces and saying that it ignored the fact that the military had repeatedly promised—and fulfilled its pledge—to cooperate with the government both before and after the 2015 general election. The information department said Shwe Mann’s statement made it appear as though the military had not cooperated.
7 Day Daily’s deputy editor-in-chief Ahr Mahn told The Irrawaddy that the military filed the case on Saturday against editor-in-chief Thaung Su Nyein and journalist Min Hein Kyaw, who reported the story. They filed the case under Section 131 of Burma’s Penal Code, which punishes anyone who abets mutiny or attempts to seduce an officer from his allegiance or duty, with up to ten years imprisonment.
“The police have not yet officially informed us. But today, they started questioning us,” Ahr Mahn said, adding that the armed forces had opened the case because they claimed the story could destroy military unity.
“The military issued the critical press release in response to Shwe Mann’s message,” said Myint Kyaw of the Myanmar Journalist Network (MJN). “But, they filed the case against the media that reported on what Shwe Mann said. It is not natural.”
The Myanmar Press Council released a statement on Monday stating that it wanted the case to be settled through negotiations.