Military Sues Taungoo Student Union Members

By Zarni Mann 2 August 2017

MANDALAY – The Myanmar Army filed a lawsuit against two former members of the Student Union of Taungoo, Bago Region, on Tuesday, accusing them of inciting unrest.

One of the accused, Ko Aung Htet, was arrested and is being held at a detention center for the Taungoo Township court. A warrant is out for the arrest of Ko Victor, the second individual implicated in the case, who is currently traveling and is expected to turn himself in to the police upon his return to Taungoo.

Ko Aung Htet told The Irrawaddy that he and Ko Victor have been sued by a lieutenant colonel in the Tatmadaw’s Southern Command for their traditional Burmese Thangyat songs, which they composed and sang with the group Kaytu Oh-Way during the Thingyan water festival in Taungoo in April. The group’s songs advocate for the amendment of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution.

“The court informed me that I needed to show up and I was arrested right away. They are going to charge us with incitement,” said Ko Aung Htet over the phone, before he was sent to prison.

The two former members of the Student Union are facing charges under Article 505(b) of the Penal Code, which outlines punishments for those with “intent to cause fear or alarm […] to the public” or “induce” others to commit crimes against the state or which “disrupt public tranquility.”

The crime is punishable by a maximum of two years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both. Article 505(b) does not allow for bail to be granted to the defendants.

“They said we are using the graphic picture of the Constitution in flames on our parade car and on our shirts, and that five lines in our Thangyat songs pertain to the stability of political situation,” said Ko Aung Htet.

“However, most of the lyrics they presented in filing the lawsuit are not our lyrics,” he added. “I don’t think they liked a line in our lyrics which said, ‘the Student Union will not agree with the [2008] Constitution until it is amended.’”

The next court hearing for the detained activists is set for August 15.