RANGOON – U Myo Yan Naung Thein, a prominent member of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and founder of the Bayda Institute charged under Burma’s Telecommunications Act for insulting the country’s army chief on social media, appeared in Rangoon’s Hlaing Township Court on Friday.
According to a police officer from the Hlaing Towship police station, the case was filed on Thursday when U Myo Yan Naung Thein was arrested.
Lt-Col Lin Tun of the Rangoon Division command filed the suit over a Facebook post that insulted the army’s commander-in-chief, according to the officer.
Article 66(d) of Burma’s Telecommunication Law states that whoever is found guilty of extorting, coercing, restraining wrongfully, defaming, disturbing, causing undue influence or threatening any person by using any telecommunications network shall be punished with a maximum three years in prison, a fine, or both.
U Myo Yan Naung Thein told reporters when he appeared in court on Friday that such a law should be revoked if it goes against the country’s Constitution, which should protect the fundamental rights of its citizens.
“Threatening a citizen’s [freedom of] expression is not in line with democratic standards,” he said.
U Myo Yan Naung Thein made a statement on his Facebook page on Oct. 14 criticizing Burma Army commander-in-chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing in reference to the country’s civil war and a recent attack on Maungdaw Township border posts in Arakan State. But details behind the arrest were not disclosed by the Hlaing Township police station.
U Myo Htike Tan Thein, the brother of the accused, told The Irrawaddy on Friday, “Such an action is questionable, especially when the country is moving forward on a democratic path.”
“The law is being used to suppress people’s opinions now,” he said.
NLD senior party member U Nyan Win told The Irrawaddy that the party had arranged to “defend” U Myo Yan Naung Thein, but refused to comment further.
“We still don’t know the actual details behind the incident,” he said. “We will announce what we will do for him only when we know all of the details.”
Such an arrest is not new in Burma. Multiple people were charged and imprisoned for defamation of either the Army chief, the President or State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi this year.