Hate Speech Trial of Ultranationalist Writer Begins in Sagaing

By Zue Zue 26 June 2018

YANGON — A township administrator in Sagaing Region testified Monday at the first hearing in the trial of ultranationalist writer Maung Thway Chun for hate speech.

Maung Thway Chun is being sued under Section 505 (b) of the Penal Code for religious hate speech during a Dhamma talk in March that was allegedly critical of the government and ruling National League for Democracy.

He was sued by U Naing Naing Zaw, a deputy administrator of Mingin Township, who testified at Monday’s hearing at the Mingin Township Court.

In a video clip from the March talk that went viral on social media, Maung Thway Chun said that although it had been 70 years since Myanmar gained independence, the country would soon be subjugated again and this time lose its race, religion and territory.

“There won’t be Buddhism in the country, and mosques and churches will replace pagodas and temples,” said the writer, a staunch supporter of the ultranationalist Ma Ba Tha association.

He added that the speakers in both houses of the Union Parliament were Christians and warned that laws on race and religion endorsed by Ma Ba Tha — which largely target certain Muslim religious and cultural practices — may soon be scrapped.

In March, Maung Thway Chun told The Irrawaddy that what he said during the talk was not as harsh as things he had written in Ma Ba Tha publications. He said he only spoke about the realities of preventing the dangers posed by “Bengalis,” a term used by nationalists to refer to Rohingya Muslims implying that they are interlopers from Bangladesh.

Maung Thway Chun attempted to form a political party after the government-appointed State Sangha Committee banned Ma Ba Tha in May 2017. But the Union Election Commission rejected the proposed party’s application, citing its religious background.

The Penal Code’s Section 505 (b) states that whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumor or report, with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offense against the state or against the public tranquility shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to two years or with a fine, or both.

The next hearing in the trial was scheduled for July 3.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.