Monk Granted Bail in Myanmar Military Lawsuit

By Zarni Mann 20 August 2020

Mandalay – A Buddhist monk facing a lawsuit filed by a military officer in Mandalay was granted bail on Thursday as the court in Pyigyitagon Township begin the hearing.

Lieutenant Colonel Thant Zaw Oo filed an additional lawsuit against Sayadaw U Sein Ti Ta under Article 500 of the Penal Code for allegedly defaming the military in Facebook posts on March 18, 2019.

The court’s spokeswoman, Daw Kyipyar Sint, told journalists that bail of 3 million kyats (US$2,200) for the new lawsuit was granted to U Sein Ti Ta.

On Thursday, the court heard testimony from the plaintiff’s witness.

The monk has also been facing a lawsuit under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act since September 2019.

At the next court hearing on Sept. 9, both of the lawsuits will be heard.

In May 2019, Lt-Col Thant Zaw Oo tried to file a lawsuit under Article 505(b) of the Penal Code against U Sein Ti Ta.

However, the Pyigyitagon Township court dropped the charges in July 2019, saying it was an inappropriate lawsuit. The officer then filed the Telecommunications Law lawsuit in September 2019 and an additional lawsuit under Article 500 at the same court.

U Sein Ti Ta posted on Facebook that military leaders were using force for their benefit and failing to provide security for the country, undermining the dignity of the military.

“What I’m talking about and writing is for the benefit of the country and the rule of law. I have no intention to defame the military. I want the military leaders to understand this. The [military-controlled] Ministry of Home Affairs has responsibility for these lawsuits. I don’t want to talk about these lawsuits which are happening under a democratically elected government,” U Sein Ti Ta told journalists after the court session.

U Sein Ti Ta was one of the leaders of the so-called saffron revolution in Pakokku Township, Magwe Region, where thousands of monks marched on Yangon, Mandalay and other big cities in September 2007.

He was arrested after helping the victims of Cyclone Nargis in 2008 and released with a presidential pardon in 2011.

Being a strong supporter of State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy, U Sein Ti Ta used to criticize the military-controlled government and the armed forces.

The military has repeatedly used Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act to sue its critics. Most of those on trial also face additional lawsuits under Articles 505(a), 505(b) or 500 of the Penal Code.

Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act carries a threat of three years in prison while Article 500 of the Penal Code carries up to two years in prison.

In Mandalay, two other monks are also facing the same lawsuits at different courts filed by military officers over Facebook posts criticizing the armed forces.

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