Myanmar Military Wins Yet Another Court Case Against Satirical Performers

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 12 December 2019

YANGON—Four performers in the Daungdohmyoset (Peacock Generation) thangyat performance troupe were sentenced by the Mayangone Township Court in Yangon on Wednesday to six months in prison for criticizing the military in their satirical performances.

The troupe’s four leaders, Ko Paing Ye Thu, Ko Paing Phyoe Min, Ko Zayar Lwin and Ma Su Yadanar Myint, were sentenced by the court under Section 66(d) of the Telecommunication Law for sharing videos of their traditional thangyat performances and a photo of a bulldog wearing an outfit resembling a military uniform on Facebook. For three of the four leaders, this is at least the fifth such case they have faced.

On Oct. 30, five members of the group—Ko Paing Ye Thu, Ko Paing Phyoe Min and Ko Zayar Lwin as well as Ma Kay Khine Tun and Ko Zaw Lin Htun—were sentenced to one year in prison with hard labor by the same court under Section 505(a) of the country’s penal code, following a suit filed by a military officer.

The military sued members of the thangyat troupe in April and May, alleging that their thangyat performances were criticizing the military, pushing military officers to disregard or fail in their duties and had the potential to cause a mutiny in the military.

The plaintiff, Lieutenant Colonel Than Htun Myint, told reporters that the military had to sue the performers as they had insulted the dignity of the military.

Six members of the thangyat troupe were already sentenced under Section 505(a) of the penal code to one year in prison by the Botahtaung Township Court in Yangon, following a case filed by a navy officer.

The troupe has been summoned to appear again in the Botahtaung court, following another case filed by a member of the navy, to face a charge under Section 66(d) of the Telecommunication Act—the same statute under which the Mayangone court sentenced them on Wednesday.

But Ma Su Yadanar Myint told reporters at the Mayangone Township Court House on Thursday that the group has decided to boycott to the rest of the charges.

“We cooperated with the courts because we hoped for justice. But the judges and courts couldn’t give justice,” she said.

Ko Paing Ye Thu also told the media that despite the fact that it is illegal to file multiple lawsuits regarding a single case, they have been sentenced to jail multiple times and will be boycotting the remaining cases filed by the military.

”According to the law, there should be a single lawsuit for this same case. But the defendants can voice this grievance because they have been charged with separate lawsuits for this same case,” human rights lawyer U Robert San Aung told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

Three of the four leaders sentenced on Wednesday—Ko Paing Ye Thu, Ko Paing Phyo Min and Ko Zayar Lwin—have also been sued in Pyapon, Dedaye and Maubin townships in Ayeyarwady Region, where the thangyat troupe performed. As in Mayangone and Botahtaung townships, the military filed the complaints against them under Section 505(a) of country’s penal code for satirizing the military.

Twenty-five members of the thangyat troupe have also been sued by the Tatmadaw, as the Myanmar military is known, under Section 66(d) of the Telecommunication Law, in Pathein Township, Ayeyarwady Region.

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