YANGON — Yangon’s Kamayut Township Court sentenced nationalist monk U Parmaukkha to three months in jail on Wednesday for incitement over his comments about the Rohingya during a protest outside the US Embassy in April 2016.
U Parmaukkha served a one-month prison sentence late last year for helping stage the protest without permission from authorities but was kept in detention once the term expired to be tried for incitement. With time served, his new jail term will expire next month.
The sexagenarian’s lawyer, U Aung Thu Rein Tun, said his client, who could have been sentenced to two years, received the minimum jail term allowed “as the judge took into consideration that he was an elder and a monk.”
He insisted that the monk was innocent, citing provisions of the Penal Code’s Section 505 (b) that exempt comments that are true and made without the intent to incite.
U Parmaukkha came to prominence as a supporter of pro-democracy activists under the military regime. Since 2013, however, he has increasingly been identified with nationalist groups, including the former Ma Ba Tha.
His lawyer said the lawsuit was illegitimate because the plaintiff did not sign the complaint and that the monk was countersuing those who endorsed it: two judges, two police lieutenants, a prosecutor and a township administrator. He said the court has already accepted lawsuits against the two police lieutenants and U Than Tun Aung, the deputy administrator of Kamayut Township, and that he was preparing suits against the other three.
“The abbot did not use any obscene language. Actually, he tried to calm the public. He said there is no such term as ‘Rohingya,’ which has been widely used,” U Tin Htut Zaw, one of the monk’s supporters, said on Wednesday of U Parmaukkha’s comments at the 2016 protest.
U Parmaukkha was among seven hardline nationalists, including three monks, sued soon after the protest, which followed the US mission’s use of the term ‘Rohingya,’ though four of them have since been released.
Many in Myanmar deny that the Rohingya are a distinct ethnic group and claim they are illegal Bengali immigrants from Bangladesh.