Burma

Charges Dropped Against Mandalay Military Critic

By Zarni Mann 23 July 2019

MANDALAY— A court in Mandalay’s Pyigyidagun Township dropped charges against the Buddhist monk U Sein Ti Ta on Tuesday.

The charges had been filed by a military officer over a Facebook post of U Sein Ti Ta’s that allegedly could have harmed the state or public tranquility under Section 505(b) of the Penal Code.

Lieutenant-Colonel Thant Zaw Oo filed the lawsuit on May 27 by submitting it directly to the court.

“This lawsuit should have been filed with the police first, with the approval of the related military base because the plaintiff is a military officer. Since he [the plaintiff] failed to do that, the court decided that the lawsuit is inadequate and has dropped the charges in accordance with its rules and regulations,” explained U Aung Kyaw Oo, the Pyigyidagun Township court judge, after the court session.

U Sein Ti Ta was a leading monk in the Saffron Revolution in Pakokku Township, Magwe Region, when thousands of monks marched in Yangon, Mandalay and other large cities in September 2007.

He was arrested after helping victims of Cyclone Nargis but released by presidential pardon in 2011.

U Sein Ti Ta, a strong supporter of State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party, has been a vocal critic of the military and the military government.

“I criticize the military because I want them to change. There are many good military officers and they’ve done some good things. However, there still are bad guys. I want them to change because I don’t want the military to have a bad image,” U Sein Ti Ta told The Irrawaddy after court. “That’s why I wrote some criticisms on my Facebook, and I think they didn’t like it, so they tried to sue me. But the court made the right decision and I’m glad about that,” he said.

The military has used Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law to sue many of its critics for defamation in recent years. Many of those on trial face additional lawsuits for related crimes under the Penal Code’s Section 505(a) and 505(b).

U Thawbita, another Buddhist monk from Mandalay, is also facing a lawsuit filed by a military official under Article 66(d) earlier this year.

He also faced additional lawsuits under 505(b), but the court, finding those charges inadequate, dropped them.

Members of the Peacock Generation thangyat troop, the ailing filmmaker U Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, former captain U Nay Myo Zin and the Zwe anyeint group—all critics of the military— are among those facing trial for similar alleged crimes.

Recently, a court in Insein Township decided to proceed with an additional 505(b) lawsuit in the case of U Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, who is currently still recovering in prison from cancer-related liver surgery performed earlier this year.

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