Burma

‘Penis Poet’ Slapped with Fresh Charges

By Kyaw Phyo Tha 17 December 2015

RANGOON — A poet charged with defamation after posting a verse on social media claiming he had a tattoo of the president on his penis is facing an additional incitement charge after his latest court appearance.

Maung Saungkha, 23, was arrested in early November after several weeks on the run from authorities, after a warning from President’s Office director Zaw Htay that the poet should “be prepared to take responsibility” for his profane verse. The 23-year-old has since been held on remand in Rangoon’s Insein Prison.

His initial charge was under Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law, with a looming three-year prison sentence if convicted. During his fourth court appearance on Thursday, an additional charge under Section 505(b) of the colonial-era Penal Code was added to the proceedings, leaving Maung Saungkha facing an additional two-year punishment under the code’s incitement provision.

“He will be the first person charged under 505(b) for writing a poem,” the accused’s lawyer Robert San Aung told The Irrawaddy on Thursday. “It is highly unfair to be charged twice for the same offense. It seems they want to prosecute him again and again.”

In a similar case, National League for Democracy (NLD) supporter Chaw Sandi Tun was arrested in Rangoon in October for allegedly sharing a photograph that compared the uniforms of the Burma Army to female clothing.

Also represented by Robert San Aung, the young woman is facing charges under the same section of the Telecommunications Law. A second charge of defamation under Section 500 of the Penal Code was dropped during her latest court appearance on Monday.

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