Lawyer, Poet, Ex-Army Captain Sued by Myanmar Military for Charter Change Remark

By Htet Naing Zaw 1 November 2019

NAYPYITAW – The military has opened a case against three prominent political activists – former Myanmar army Captain Nay Myo Zin, poet Saw Wai and lawyer U Kyi Myint – for their remarks on charter amendments made in April in Kawthaung Township, Tanintharyi Region.

The Kawthaung Township Court accepted the case on Oct. 31, according to the military’s Coastal Command.

One of the accused, Nay Myo Zin, is currently serving a one-year prison term under the same charge, filed by the Tatmadaw in Yangon, for calling the Constitution undemocratic.

The three addressed a public gathering at a hall in Kawthaung in support of the Parliament’s charter amendment committee on April 3.

Colonel Thant Sin Oo from the Coastal Command told The Irrawaddy that their remarks defamed the Tatmadaw (military) and the military leadership.

“Their comments were aimed at causing misunderstanding. Therefore, we petitioned directly to the Kawthaung court and the court charged them under Article 505 [of the Penal Code] on Oct. 17,” said Col. Thant Sin Oo.

Section 505(a) of the Penal Code carries a penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment for anyone convicted of making, publishing or circulating statements, rumors or reports intended to cause military officers to mutiny, or to fail in or disregard their duties. It is a non-bailable offense.

U Kyi Myint told The Irrawaddy that he was sued for mentioning amendments to the Constitution at the gathering in Kawthaung six months ago, but insisted he did not say anything to damage the Tatmadaw.

The lawyer said: “Former Captain Nay Myo Zin talked for about 75 minutes. Ko Saw Wai talked for about an hour. I only talked for 20 minutes, as I was the eldest there and I could not cope with the heat. I talked about the Constitution, nothing else.”

He added: “We had to stand and raise [issues] for our country’s sake. There was no support from another country. We cannot stay silent. If everyone is silent, our country will further deteriorate. We must speak out about what needs to be done.”

But he said he was denied the opportunity to address the Kawthaung court.

“The military applied to the court on Oct. 17 and the case was accepted yesterday [Thursday], but we did not receive a letter. We don’t know yet if the letter arrived, whether we would be arrested without bail and sent to prison. According to the procedures, we will have to travel there and face [the charges].”

The number of military attempts to sue activists, especially those supporting charter amendments, has risen since April, said Maung Saung Kha, the director of Athan, a group advocating freedom of expression. Of 30 cases, 24 were lawsuits filed directly by the Tatmadaw against 77 people. The six remaining cases were filed by other people on behalf of the Tatmadaw, he said.

Those targeted have included monks, journalists, politicians, political activists, farmers and comedians.

Military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun said earlier that the Tatmadaw’s tolerance of criticism was not unlimited.

SEO: military, political activists, freedom of speech, human rights, 2008 Constitution, Tatmadaw, Nay Myo Zin, Saw Wai, Kyi Myint, charter amendment, Kawthaung Township, Tanintharyi Region, military-controlled courts, Section 505(a), Penal Code