Court Denies Bail to Ultra-Nationalist Politician Charged with Defamation

By Salai Thant Zin 21 June 2016

PATHEIN, Irrawaddy Division — The Pathein District Court in Irrawaddy Division denied a bail request on Monday from Nay Myo Wai, an ultra-nationalist politician charged with defamation under Burma’s Telecommunications Law.

Nay Myo Wai is on trial for sharing posts on social media that allegedly defamed President Htin Kyaw, Army Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.

Nay Myo Wai, a supporter of the Buddhist nationalist group Ma Ba Tha, serves as chairman of the Peace and Diversity Party, which contested the November general election on an ultra-nationalist platform but failed to win a seat. In recent years he has earned a reputation as a frequent propagator of anti-Muslim sentiment online.

Wai Yan Aung, an executive member of the Burma Teachers’ Federation, filed the lawsuit against the politician in early May under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law and accused him of defaming Burma’s top trio online. Article 66(d) carries a punishment of up to three years’ imprisonment for using a telecommunications network to commit defamation.

Nay Myo Wai was arrested by police on May 4 and brought to trial three weeks later. The Kangyidaunt Township Court where he faces trial denied him a previous bail request.

Myint Thein, the plaintiff’s lawyer, told The Irrawaddy that the Pathein District Court judge denied Nay Myo Wai’s bail request, which claimed the defendant was suffering from breathing problems and had to rely on an oxygen cylinder. The court said it would not consider the bail request because it had not received medical records from a hospital or doctor.

When asked by The Irrawaddy about the court’s refusal of the bail request, Sandar Oo, Nay Myo Wai’s sister who is acting as his lawyer, refused to comment.

Myint Thein added that the court also rejected additional photo evidence submitted by plaintiff Wai Yan Aung, saying the pictures were filed late—after the lawsuit was filed and the arrest had already occurred.

Nay Myo Wai was not present in court on Monday, but about 20 of his supporters gathered wearing t-shirts that said “May Nay Myo Wai be freed.” He remains in custody at Pathein Prison.