Legal Adviser: Article 66(d) Case Against Ko Swe Win ‘No Longer Valid’

By The Irrawaddy 16 March 2017

RANGOON — A legal adviser to Ko Swe Win has claimed that a complaint filed against the Myanmar Now journalist for allegedly insulting nationalist monk U Wirathu is no longer valid.

U Kyaw Myo Shwe, a follower of U Wirathu in Mandalay, recently filed a complaint against Ko Swe Win at a police station in Mandalay’s Maha Aungmyay Township. He accused the reporter of defaming U Wirathu when he shared an abbot’s quote stating that U Wirathu was no longer a member of the monkhood because he had thanked the assassins of National League for Democracy legal adviser U Ko Ni for their act.

The Mandalay police station accepted the case under Article 66(d) of Burma’s Telecommunications Law and came to Rangoon on Wednesday to proceed with the case.

The police and Ko Swe Win, together with his legal adviser, met at the Myanmar Journalist Network.

“It is no longer valid to charge Ko Swe Win,” U Khin Maung Myint, the legal adviser, told the police.

He said that a judge was not able to decide whether U Wirathu is still a member of the monkhood. Only the state Buddhist authority, the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, often known by its Burmese acronym Ma Ha Na, can do that, U Khin Maung Myint added.

“Because of the official statements from Ma Ha Na and the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture, the complainant’s accusations are already void,” he said.

Three days after the complaint filed, Ma Ha Na and Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture issued the statements that banned U Wirathu from preaching sermons for one year. The nationalist monk was repeatedly accused of engaging in hate speech against other religions to cause communal strife, hinder the rule of law, and taking sides with political parties in order to inflame tensions.

A Friday statement from the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture also said that the restrictions on the monk were due to his criticism of the current government, as well as religious hate speech made at his Dhamma talk at Kyunku, Irrawaddy Division, and his praise on Facebook of suspects involved in the murder of U Ko Ni.

“If you [the police] want to continue the case, you will need the statement from the Ma Ha Na and the minister of religious affairs and culture on the case, and also will need to go through the media council as mediator since Ko Swe Win is a journalist,” U Khin Maung Myint said.

He said if Ma Ha Na decides U Wirathu is no longer a member of the monkhood, charges against Ko Swe Win would need to be dropped.

Police officers from Mandalay’s Maha Aungmyay Township replied that they would report back to the senior officials during the meeting.

“Everyone knows that he [U Wirathu] engaged in religious hate speech at his Dhamma talks. And also I didn’t directly accuse him of no longer being in the monkhood. It was an excerpt from the story, the quote of abbot. But in the complaint, he accused me dishonestly, as if that is my [own] accusation,” Ko Swe Win told the police.