Chaw Sandi Tun Sentenced to Six Months in Jail over Facebook Post

By San Yamin Aung 28 December 2015

RANGOON — An Irrawaddy Division court sentenced 25-year-old Chaw Sandi Tun to six months in prison on Monday for sharing a photo collage online which compared redesigned uniforms worn by Burmese military personnel to the apparel worn by National League for Democracy (NLD) chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Maubin Township court handed down the sentence under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law for defamation relating to the Facebook post which was deemed insulting to the military.

Chaw Sandi Tun was a former member of the Maubin Students’ Union and took part in the recent student protest movement against the controversial National Education Law. She was involved in campaigning for the NLD until her arrest in October.

An additional charge, brought against the defendant in late October under Article 500 of the Penal Code—also a defamation clause—was dropped on Dec. 14.

After Monday’s verdict, Chaw Sandi Tun referred to another Facebook furor in mid-2014, when a doctored image of Suu Kyi in Islamic garb was shared online, including by Khin Sandar Tun, the wife of Burma’s information minister Ye Htut.

“If they found me guilty, Ye Htut’s wife is also [guilty]. I want her to be sued too. All should be the same under the law,” Chaw Sandi Tun told reporters.

The 25-year-old’s case is thought to be the first prosecution for defamation related to sharing content on social media.

“The rule of law in Burma is isolated,” said the defendant’s lawyer, Robert San Aung, adding that his client also denied sharing the post. “Others who spread hate speech [online] that assaults race and religion and the community are free while she was jailed.

“It is the first prosecution related to a Facebook post so there are a lot of weak points in this case,” the lawyer added.

Similar cases are currently before the courts, including that of aid worker Patrick Khum Jaa Lee, who has been detained—with several requests for bail denied—since October over a Facebook post he disputes sharing.

A young poet in Rangoon was detained on Nov. 5 after posting a poem on Facebook claiming that he had an image of President Thein Sein tattooed on his penis.

Than Tun, a Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) official, is also facing trial for allegedly doctoring a photo of Suu Kyi, whose face was transposed onto the body of a naked woman in the offending image.