Chaw Sandi Tun, Famed Facebook Antagonizer, Released From Prison

By Su Myat Mon 30 March 2016

RANGOON — The Maupin Prison in Irrawaddy Division on Wednesday set free Chaw Sandi Tun, the 25-year-old National League for Democracy (NLD) supporter who was jailed last year for an online posting of a photo collage deemed defamatory to the military.

She had been serving a six-month prison sentence after she was found guilty of defamation under Article 66(d) of Burma’s Telecommunications Law for the Facebook post, which compared redesigned Burma Amy uniforms to a similarly colored traditional green htamein, a female longyi, worn by NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Detained on Oct. 12 and sentenced in late December, her discharge comes about a week earlier than expected. Upon her release, Chaw Sandi Tun told The Irrawaddy that prison authorities simply told her she was “due” to walk free.

“I was put in solitary confinement for two months in a room of Insein Prison, as they considered me a politician. Thus I did not get a chance to speak to other prisoners in jail. I therefore had to speak out about it with the officials,” she said.

Prison authorities eventually transferred her to Maupin Prison and moved her into a shared cell, where she said conditions were crowded, sanitation lacking and prisoners were forced to sleep without protective mosquito netting, prompting fears of mosquito-borne illnesses.

“Something that I would like to say is that they should have basic health care provision, with mosquito nets so that people can be prevented from [mosquito-borne illnesses like] Zika virus, which is reportedly dangerous and threatening people around the world,” Chaw Sandi Tun told The Irrawaddy.

She said Maupin Prison officials had arranged her travel from the prison to her home, despite her telling them that family and friends were willing to pick her up.

“I think, they do not want many people to know about my release,” she said.

Chaw Sandi Tun’s mother Ei San said police had detained her daughter in October while she was making merit at a meditation center in Rangoon, a move she found particularly galling.

“In this case, it is totally unfair to my daughter, that they sentenced her to six months,” Ei San said.

As for her future, Chaw Sandi Tun said she had no immediate plans and had not yet decided what would follow her imprisonment, which became a cause célèbre among freedom of speech advocates.

Chaw Sandi Tun is one of a handful of social media users in Burma that have run afoul of the law for their online activity over the last year. Most recently, on Monday, a local official from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) was sentenced to six months for sharing a fake, altered image of Suu Kyi transposed onto the body of a naked woman.