Myanmar Facebook User Sued for Accusing Mandalay Chief Minister of Corruption
By Zarni Mann 25 May 2020
Mandalay – A Mandalay regional government employee has filed a complaint under the infamous Telecommunications Act against a Facebook user who accused the Mandalay chief minister of corruption.
The Shwe Thu Thu Khin Facebook account posted on March 26 that Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, the chief minister, asked Ma Thu Thu Khin for 100 million kyats (US$71,000) if she wanted to resolve a legal case within a day.
Referring to the land ownership case she faces in Pyin Oo Lwin Township, Ma Thu Thu Khin posted: “I met the chief minister five times. He asked me to give him 100 million kyats if I wanted the case resolved that day.”
Ma Thu Thu Khin said she refused to pay bribes, adding that the chief minister “did not fulfill his duty or follow the law”.
A police duty officer in Mandalay confirmed the complaint to The Irrawaddy but refused to provide further information, saying the case is under investigation.
“The complaint was filed by assistant director U Sithu Lin of Mandalay regional government under the Telecommunications Act’s Article 66(d). The case was registered and it is still under investigation,” said the duty officer.
According to a regional government source, the ailing chief minister, who just returned from a Bangkok hospital, ordered the assistant director to file the complaint on his behalf.
In September 2019, the National League for Democracy office in Mandalay used Article 66(d) to sue two administrators of the “We Love Dauk Zaw” Facebook page, in reference to Dr. Zaw Myint Maung.
The page posted numerous satirical memes about Dr. Zaw Myint Maung and the two page administrators are still at large.
According to freedom of expression activist organization Athan, more than 1,000 citizens were sued in 539 lawsuits from April 2016 to March 2020 for alleged criticism of the authorities. Of these cases, 34 were filed under the Telecommunications Act in which government staff or party members or supporters were the plaintiffs.
Any citizen can use Article 66(d) to sue for alleged online abuse, regardless of whether they were the subject of the remarks. It carries a threat of three years in prison and is deeply controversial for alleged defamation. The law has come to be interpreted as any use of the internet, so sharing a Facebook post that casts someone in a negative light can be grounds for prosecution.
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