Myanmar Military Files Defamation Charge against NLD Lawmaker

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 19 January 2021

Yangon—The Northern Command of Myanmar’s military has filed a defamation charge against National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmaker U Khin Maung Myint after he accused the military of corruption.

The Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) raided illegal gold mines in Kachin State’s Hpakant Township and Sagaing Region’s Homalin Township in November 2017 and reportedly confiscated machinery including 53 backhoes, 10 dump trucks, and two oil tankers.

Upper House lawmaker U Khin Maung Myint, who was elected in the 2020 November election for a five-year term, submitted a report on the illegal mines to President U Win Myint in December 2019. The report alleged that Tatmadaw officials and the security border affairs minister of Kachin State took bribes from the operators of the illegal gold mines in exchange for allowing them to bring machinery into Hpakant.

Now, Lieutenant Colonel Than Htike of the Northern Command has filed a defamation charge against the lawmaker under Section 500 of colonial-era Penal Code.

“The letter alleged that the machinery could be brought in because of the Tatmadaw’s corruption. We did confiscate the machinery and handed it over [to the government]. The report said we should not have confiscated the machinery. He alleged that the machinery was brought in with the permission of the Tatmadaw. That’s why we filed a lawsuit against him,” said Myanmar military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun.

The Irrawaddy was unable to contact U Khin Maung Myint. However, Lower House lawmaker U Tint Soe said U Khin Maung Myint was charged because of his choice of words in his letter to the President.

“Frankly speaking, he was right [about Tatmadaw’s involvement], but wrong about [the way he chose the words],” said U Tint Soe.

Before the Tatmadaw’s raid, the Kachin State minister for resources and environmental conservation made field inspections in May 2017 and found that more than 4,000 of 10,000 pieces of machinery in Hpakant mines were not officially registered.

Hpakant is dotted with jade and gold mines, and the Tatmadaw and police run joint inspection gates at entrances and exits of Hpakant. The ethnic rebel army Kachin Independence Army (KIA) is also active in Hpakant.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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