Fish Farmer Hit With Defamation Lawsuit Over State Counselor Facebook Post

By Zarni Mann 18 August 2017

MANDALAY — A fish farmer in Yangon has been dealt a lawsuit under Myanmar’s controversial telecoms law for posting on Facebook the suggestion that bachelors could propose to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Self-described political activist Daw Zar Zar Htoon filed the lawsuit under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law against U Min Swe, also known as Nga (Fish) Min Swe—a nod to his profession, and a means to differentiate him from politician and former political prisoner U Min Swe.

“His posts—not only this one—defamed our Mother Suu,” said Mandalay resident Daw Zar Zar Htoon, who filed the lawsuit in a Pyigyitagon Township police station. “I have lots of evidence of his defamation.”

Daw Zar Zar Htoon stressed that she was not associated with the State Counselor’s National League for Democracy (NLD) but took action “as an ordinary citizen who does not want further slandering against the Lady we love and respect.”

Police colonel Thein Lwin of the township confirmed the lawsuit and said the case was under investigation.

“We are now checking the evidence submitted by the plaintiff. If it is found to be enough to go under [Article] 66(d), we will inform the accused, accordingly with the law,” he said.

U Min Swe is a well-known and outspoken local figure who has previously self-published leaflets against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, circulating them during the NLD election campaigns and party events.

The Irrawaddy was unable to reach him for comment on Thursday. A Facebook post on his profile on Thursday, however, stated that “every unmarried man is entitled to ask women of any age who have no husband to love and marry them.”

“Anyone can sue me for saying this,” he wrote in Burmese.

Responding to the lawsuit, he added that he would like to sue former US President Barack Obama for defaming Myanmar, as he hugged and kissed Daw Aung San Suu Kyi when he visited the country.

Earlier this month, the Upper House voted to amend Article 66(d) by allowing bail to be granted to the defendant and blocking third parties from prosecuting under the law unless the party has been granted legal power by the “defamed” individual.

The proposed modifications will also be put to the Lower House before a final decision is taken.

Critics have called for Article 66(d) to be scrapped, arguing that it has been used to restrict freedom of expression and stifle the press.

The article states that whoever uses a “telecommunication network to extort, threaten, obstruct, defame, disturb inappropriately influence or intimidate,” on conviction can be “punished with imprisonment for a term extending to a maximum of three years, and shall be liable to fine or both.”