Burma Army Sues Students for Defamation

By Salai Thant Zin 23 January 2017

PATHEIN, Irrawaddy Division — The Burma Army sued nine students for defamation last week after they staged a drama critical of military clashes with ethnic armed groups during a peace discussion at The Bassein Hotel in Pathein, Irrawaddy Division on Jan. 9.

General staff officer Lt-Col Aung Myo Khaing, of the Burma Army South Western Command, filed the complaint with Pathein Township Court last Tuesday and the police begun questioning the students the next day, according to police.

“The South Western Command is suing under defamation charges for the drama played at Bassein Hotel, saying that it damaged the reputation of the army,” township police captain Myo Thu told The Irrawaddy.

“We have been investigating the students at the order of the court and after we have established the case, we will send it back to the court,” he added.

Among the nine students, four are high school students who will sit their university matriculation examinations in March, three are university students of Bassein University, and two are distance-learning.

The students performed a satirical comedy in which a news agency named ‘oxygen’ interviewed the supporters of conflict in Burma.

“We did not want to harm either the military or ethnic armed groups,” said lead organizer of the drama Ko Aung Khant Zaw, “the message of our drama is that we don’t want wars.”

“We don’t like that there are supporters of clashes while clashes have thrown so many into troubled waters,” the distance learner at Pathein University added.

“We mimicked demonstrations which supported armed clashes. It seems they have found certain words [spoken during the drama] were insulting to them, so they sued us,” added Ko Aung Khant.

The peace discussion at the Bassein Hotel was joined by representatives of 52 local organizations including political activists, civil society organizations, farmers, and students from 26 townships in the division.

After the discussion, they marched to the town hall in protest against armed clashes.