Monk Accused of Defaming Military Chief Turns Self In, Released on Bail

By Zarni Mann 28 September 2018

MANDALAY — A Buddhist monk accused of defaming Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing on Facebook turned himself in to police in Mandalay on Friday and was released on bail.

Lieutenant Colonel Myo Khaing Win, who is stationed with the military’s Central Command in Mandalay, filed a complaint with police in Amarapura Township on Sunday requesting legal action against U Thawbita for Facebook posts critical of the military and commander-in-chief.

U Thawbita, who heads the Bawa Alin charity, was away from his monastery in Amarapura when police went to search for him there. The Mahagandaryone monastery expelled the monk on Tuesday, claiming he had abused its rules and regulations.

“The police stormed the monastery by force while I was away and I don’t like their manners. I walked into the police station myself to face the accuser,” U Thawbita told reporters at the station.

“I’m saddened by the decision of the senior abbot of the monastery to expel me,” he said, adding that the senior monks may have been pressured to kick him out by authorities.

Dozens of monks and activists were at the station to show their support for the monk, who was questioned over his alleged breach of Article 66 (d) of the Telecommunications Act, which covers criminal defamation, and released on bail.

The police will continue to investigate the case and submit a report to the local court, which will decide whether to press charges. Under recent legal amendments, anyone accused of defamation can only be sued by the party the accused allegedly defamed or the party’s legal representative.

U Thawbita denied any wrongdoing.

“What I wrote on Facebook does not defame anyone,” he said.

The offending posts claim that Snr-Gen. Min Aung Hlaing may have orchestrated a prison break in Karen State earlier this month, liken the military chief to a cow, and describe the military as more destructive than a natural disaster.

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.