Military Files Second Lawsuit Against Myanmar Publication: Lawyers

By Tin Htet Paing 27 June 2017

YANGON — The Myanmar military submitted another lawsuit at the Bahan Township court against The Voice Daily’s chief editor and columnist over the same satirical article that led to charges under the country’s controversial online defamation law, according to the lawyers of the accused.

Lt-Col Lin Tun originally filed a suit at the Bahan Township police station on May 17. The police detained the columnist Ko Kyaw Zwa Naing, also known by his pen name British Ko Ko Maung, and the paper’s chief editor U Kyaw Min Swe in early June, bringing them to court under Article 66(d) of the 2013 Telecommunications Law.

Examining statements made by the chief editor to the police, the court later decided that columnist Ko Kyaw Zwa Naing could not be indicted under the Article 66(d) as his article was to be primarily printed in The Voice’s daily newspaper, rather than distributed online. He was absolved from the charge on June 16.

U Khin Maung Myint, legal adviser to chief editor U Kyaw Myint Swe, said that the police summoned the pair and their lawyers on June 23 for further investigation into the case under an additional complaint.

Defense lawyer U Myo Thein told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the new complaint addressed the same concerns raised under the Article 66(d) charges.

“It seems like the plaintiff complained twice about the same issue, and such an action is not in line with legal provisions,” he said.

U Khin Maung Myint, however, emphasized that the complaint appeared to have ben submitted to the Bahan Township court at the same time as Lt-Col Lin Tun filed the charges filed against the pair at the police station, but the police had only just started taking action regarding the additional complaint.

“According to existing laws, any individual or any institution has a legal right to file complaints [to the prosecuting body] if one feels aggrieved,” U Khin Maung Myint said, stressing, “In this particular case, the plaintiff has exploited [his] legal rights.”

The article in question, titled ‘Kyi Htaung Su Thitsar’—meaning ‘Oath Made in a Nation of Bullets’—was written by Ko Ko Maung and published on March 26.

The title was a play on the army-produced film ‘Pyi Htaung Su Thitsar’—translated as ‘Union Oath’—that commemorated the country’s 72nd Armed Forces Day and aired on state- and military-owned channels in early March.

Lower-ranking soldiers die in ongoing battles while the leaders of armed groups hold peace talks and exchange smiles, the satirist wrote.

The lawsuit came amid mediation held by the Myanmar Press Council between the paper and the military. The Tatmadaw complained to the council about the article just before the Thingyan holidays in April.

According to U Khin Maung Myint, the army insisted that The Voice publish an apology note stating that the article’s content was factually wrong. However, the paper only published a note on May 14, expressing its “regret” for the army’s concerns, and said the article was humorous, constructive and did not intend to harm the image of the military or any other ethnic armed groups.

Lawyer U Myo Thein has requested three times that the court grant bail for U Kyaw Min Swe, but the attempts have been denied by the judge. The next court hearing is scheduled for June 30.