Military Seeks Second Defamation Suit Against Mandalay Monk

By Zarni Mann 24 May 2019

MANDALAY—A Myanmar military officer from Mandalay’s Central Command is seeking to file another lawsuit against U Thawbita, the local monk who is already facing a lawsuit for violating Article 66(d) Myanmar’s Telecommunications Law.

Lt-Col Aung Myo Kyaw, who is stationed with the Central Command in Mandalay, filed a complaint to Amarapura Township Court in Mandalay, and the court accepted the complaint on Thursday.

“I don’t know what kind of charge the court will file against him (U Thawbita). I filed a complaint about his Facebook posts which are extreme and defame the military. Military personnel are the staff of the State so defaming the military is defaming the State as well. The court will decide the charge, not me,” Lt-Col Aung Myo Kyaw told journalists after the court session on Thursday.

According to U Thawbita’s lawyer, the court will make a decision on this additional complaint on June 6.

“The potential charge for the additional complaint could be under Article 505 (b) or 505 (a). Today, the court said it will hand over the complaint to the police for investigation. The court said it will make a decision on June 6 once the investigation is complete,” said Daw Ywat Nu Aung, U Thawbita’s lawyer. “We will only know then with which act he is charged with.”

At the same court on Thursday, U Thawbita’s first trial under the Telecommunications Law 66 (d), was ongoing. The court said it could not hear the trial, however, as the case was submitted to Mandalay Regional Court.

“The trial under the 66 (d) charge is still in the hands of the regional court. It is checking our complaints about the letter of the military officer’s representation which was not submitted in accordance with the law,” said the lawyer.

U Thawbita, who is head of the Bawa Alin charity, was not presented to the court on Thursday.

U Thawbita has repeatedly posted messages on Facebook criticizing the military and supporting State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her ruling National League for Democracy party.

He is accused of breaking the law with his Facebook posts which claim that Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing may have orchestrated the prison break in Karen State in September last year, for likening the military chief to a cow, and for describing the military as more destructive than a natural disaster.

The first lawsuit was filed by Lt-Col Myo Khaing Win in mid-September 2018, and following that he was expelled from his monastery, the Mahagandaryone Monastery located in Amarapura Township in Mandalay.

After his expulsion he turned himself in at Amarapura Township Police Station and was released on bail. He has been facing trial under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law since then.

The military has been using the same article, 66(d), to sue many people who criticized them. Most of those on trial face additional lawsuits under Myanmar’s Penal Code Article 505(a) and 505(b).

Members of the Peacock Generation thangyat troop, filmmaker U Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, former captain U Nay Myo Zin and the Zwe anyeint group who criticized the military are among those who are facing trials under similar laws.

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