Myanmar Police Reject Lawsuits Against 3 Critics of Ex-Lower House Speaker

By Htet Naing Zaw 16 October 2019

NAYPYITAW—Police have dismissed complaints filed on behalf of former Lower House Speaker U Shwe Mann against former Upper House lawmaker U Hla Swe, former Information Minister U Ye Htut and U Bo Bo Kyaw Nyein.

In May, U Shwe Mann’s driver filed a complaint with Patta Police Station in Pobbathiri Township of Naypyitaw against the three under the Law Protecting the Privacy and Security of Citizens alleging that the three made personal attacks on U Shwe Mann in interviews with Luhtu media, an online news agency.

Police then sought advice from the township legal office about whether or not to proceed with the case. The office reviewed their remarks and replied last month that the comments by the three were not in breach of the Law Protecting the Privacy and Security of Citizens.

“The township legal office gave the advice last month. So, we won’t bring the case to the court,” Police Lieutenant Zaw Lin Htet of Patta Police Station told The Irrawaddy.

Police have informed the concerned parties about it, but the complainant said nothing about the decision, he added.

U Ye Htut, who served as the spokesperson for former President U Thein Sein’s administration, said he had been prepared to face trial, and he regretted that he had lost the chance to officially question the activities of U Shwe Mann in court, due to the dismissal of the complaints.

“U Shwe Mann is not an ordinary citizen. He is a leader of a political party, and he has said officially that he would serve administrative and legislative duties if elected by the people. I as a citizen will continue to monitor his actions and point out his shortcomings,” U Ye Htut said.

A former lawmaker with close ties to U Shwe Mann said there were delays in the case and that police did not start working on it until nearly two months after the complaints were filed.

“If [the person criticized] had not been U Shwe Mann … and those who made the criticisms were just ordinary citizens, I doubt the case would just fizzle out like this,” he said on condition of anonymity.

In particular, what U Bo Bo Kyaw Nyein said was more defamatory than the remarks of U Ye Htut and U Hla Swe, he said.

U Bo Bo Kyaw was quoted as saying to Luhtu media, “U Shwe Mann is a hermit crab. What’s worse, he is a turncoat and his life [as a politician] is controlled by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. If Daw Aung San Suu Kyi ‘ptui’ and spits him out [kicks him out], he is done.”

In Burmese, hermit crab is a metaphorical term used to refer to people without their own abilities who rely on others for their advancement, as the creature lives in the shells of snails.

“Bo Bo Kyaw Nyein said it [the post], and U Ye Htut shared it. If that remark breaches the law, sharing of it is aiding and abetting. So, there are a lot of questions about why the charges are dismissed,” he said.

U Hla Swe and U Ye Htut were sued over other comments they made about U Shwe Mann in separate interviews with the same media outlet.

After U Shwe Mann was purged from the chairman position of the Union Solidarity and Development Party in a power struggle with former President U Thein Sein, he moved to ally himself with National League for Democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. This move earned him the title of turncoat among USDP supporters and critics.

Meanwhile, in a separate case, U Hla Swe is wanted by the police for critical comments about State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Additionally, aides of U Shwe Mann said they are looking into the possibility of filing a lawsuit against U Ye Htut for calling U Shwe Mann a traitor in his book “Myanmar’s Political Change and lost Opportunities” and sharing the text on his Facebook page. They said they have consulted with legal experts who said complaints can be filed against U Ye Htut under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law, Article 500 of the Penal Code, and the Law Protecting the Privacy and Security of Citizens.

“But for the time being, U Shwe Mann has no [immediate] plan to [proceed with] a lawsuit,” said an aide.

U Shwe Mann founded the Union Betterment Party in February and has been opening party branches across the country and meeting his supporters since then.