Jailed Satirical Performer Faces Extra Charge from Myanmar’s Military

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 16 December 2020

Yangon – A member of the Daungdohmyoset (Peacock Generation) troupe, which criticized the military in satirical performances, faces a further jail term in Ayeyarwady Region after already serving several sentences.

On Tuesday, the troupe’s leader, Ko Zayar Lwin, who was sentenced to 5½ years in prison by courts in Yangon and Ayeyarwady regions, was sentenced to a further year in jail by Maubin Township’s court under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act.

The military filed a lawsuit against Ko Zayar Lwin for sharing the traditional Thangyat troupe’s performances criticizing the military on social media.

Ko Zayar Lwin told the media on Tuesday that he will keep criticizing inappropriate behavior by the military despite his imprisonment.

During the 2019 Thingyan water festival, the troupe, which was established by student unions and activists, held performances in two townships in Yangon and four Ayeyarwady townships.

The military filed about eight lawsuits against the performers in April and May 2019, alleging that the performances criticized the military, undermined respect for officers and potentially encouraged mutiny.

It used Article 505(a) of the Penal Code and 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law against the performers.

Article 505(a) says anyone making a statement which could cause personnel to mutiny or disregard their duty can be punished with a two-year prison term.

Any citizen can use Article 66(d) to sue for alleged online abuse, even if they were not the subject of the remarks. It carries a threat of three years in prison and is deeply controversial for alleged defamation. The law has come to be interpreted as any use of the internet, so sharing a Facebook post that casts someone in a negative light can be grounds for prosecution.

The military filed lawsuits in six Yangon and Ayeyarwady townships against seven troupe leaders.

On June 12, Ko Zayaw Lwin and Ko Paing Ye Thu were jailed to 5½ years in prison and Ko Paing Pyoe Min was sentenced to six years.

Ma Kay Khine Tun, Ko Zaw Lin Htut and Ma Su Yadanar Myint, were sentenced to 2½ years in prison by two Yangon courts and released recently.

The troupe did not use lawyers or challenge the charges, saying it did not trust the judiciary.

Ko Nan Linn of the Daungdohmyoset Troupe told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the group was not surprised that the military was using lawsuits to block freedom of expression and citizens’ rights.

But he did express surprise that the judiciary was so willing to accept all the military lawsuits and sentence the accused without considering their rights.

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