Court Drops Extra Charge Against Monk Accused of Defaming Military

By Zarni Mann 6 June 2019

MANDALAY—The court in Mandalay’s Amarapura Township on Thursday dropped one of the charges against U Thawbita, a Buddhist monk facing prosecution for criticizing the military.

U Thawbita was already facing a lawsuit under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act for posting comments allegedly defaming the military and commander-in-chief on Facebook, when a senior military officer filed an additional lawsuit last month. That lawsuit, filed by Lieutenant Colonel Aung Myo Kyaw of the military’s Mandalay-based Central Command, was to have been prosecuted under either Article 505(a) or 505(b).

“The court said on Thursday that the complaint of the military official is inadequate. So, it decided to drop the [additional] charge against Sayardaw U Thawbita,” lawyer Daw Ywat Nu Aung said after the court announced its decision.

“We welcome the decision of the court, because we believe the charges against Sayardaw are unjust,” she added.

U Thawbita appears at the court in early May. / Zaw Zaw / The Irrawaddy

U Thawbita has another court hearing related to the Article 66(d) lawsuit on June 20.

The monk, who heads the Bawa Alin Charity, was not present in court on Thursday.

He repeatedly posted messages on Facebook criticizing the military and supporting State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her ruling National League for Democracy.

The Facebook post that led to the lawsuit claimed that Snr-Gen. Min Aung Hlaing may have orchestrated a prison break in Karen State that occurred in September last year. It also likened the military chief to a cow, and described the military as more destructive than a natural disaster.

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