RANGOON — National League for Democracy (NLD) member U Myo Yan Naung Thein and Ko Aung Myint Tun were each sentenced to six months in jail under Article 66(d) of Burma’s Telecommunications Law on Friday, taking the tally of people convicted under the controversial law to eight since the NLD took office.
U Myo Yan Naung Thein was sentenced in Rangoon’s Kamayut Township court for sharing Facebook posts deemed to defame Burma Army chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, and Ko Aung Myint Tun was sentenced in Naypyidaw’s Zabuthiri Township.
According to local media, Ko Aung Myint Tun was sentenced for sharing a letter on Facebook on which he forged the NLD stamp. He was accused of fabricating two letters—a resignation letter submitted by NLD Central Committee (CEC) member U Win Htein and the CEC’s approval of his resignation.
Ko Aung Myint Tun will be released next week after being detained in custody for more than five months.
U Myo Yan Naung Thein, the founder of educational body the Bayda Institute, warned that Article 66(d) “should not be misused or bent” and said the verdict was unfair.
As U Myo Yan Naung Thein has already been detained for more than five months without bail, he will serve about three more weeks behind bars.
Seven people were charged under Article 66 (d) and five were given sentences during the former president U Thein Sein’s government. So far under the NLD government, there have been 54 cases, while six defendants are currently being denied bail and facing trial in custody, according to an NGO researching the Telecommunications Law.
“We have submitted documents to the parliament to change the law,” said poet Maung Saungkha, one of those who have been jailed under Article 66(d).
The act, enacted as part of an opening up of the telecoms sector in 2013, bans use of a telecoms network to “extort, threaten, obstruct, defame, disturb, inappropriately influence or intimidate.”
Journalists including Eleven Media Group CEO Dr Than Htut Aung, the group’s chief editor U Wai Phyo, and Myanmar Now chief correspondent U Swe Win have been charged under Article 66(d).
Chairman of the Legal Affairs and Special Issues Assessment Commission Thura U Shwe Mann expressed his support to amend the law earlier this year.
Legal experts have also stressed the law should be amended because no bail is granted for the defendants, a third party can sue on behalf of the person who is defamed, and its provisions are technically vague.
Maung Saung Kha said that his group would organize more campaigns to call for an amendment to the law if the lawmakers did not take prompt action in Parliament, which resumes in May.