The Irrawaddy

Police Open Cases After Fake Reports of Buddhist Academy Gun Haul

Sitagu International Buddhist Academy in Yangon seen at opening ceremony in 2011. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

YANGON — A Yangon police station has opened cases under Myanmar’s telecoms law against four unidentified Facebook users who allegedly spread false reports that police raided a well-known Buddhist academy and found firearms.

Stories circulated on Facebook on Oct. 23 said weapons and ammunition were discovered at Sitagu International Buddhist Academy’s Yangon campus in North Dagon Township. The stories also claimed the academy’s leading monks were detained for interrogation and urged the public to report suspicious monasteries.

The reports were widely shared, with many users quick to dismiss the news as fake. The academy—respected in Myanmar and abroad as a hub for Theravada Buddhism—reported the stories to North Dagon Township Police Station, complaining they were defamatory and damaged the image of the academy.

The station’s police chief Than Zaw Min told The Irrawaddy they opened cases against four Facebook users under Article 66(d) of Myanmar’s Telecommunications Law on Tuesday.

Police are still identifying the accounts’ owners, he added.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture released a statement on Tuesday saying the reports were spread with the intention to incite racial and religious conflict in the country.

An account named “Faisal Thar Thakhin” first posted the news on Monday and “Myanmar News” page also posted it, the ministry stated.

Article 66(d) carries a maximum prison sentence of up to two years for “extorting, coercing, restraining wrongfully, defaming, disturbing any person using a telecommunications network.”