Rangoon Court Detains Editors Awaiting Trial for ‘Undermining Stability’

By Nang Seng Nom 23 July 2014

RANGOON — Three editors at the Bi Mon Te Nay journal were remanded in custody on Tuesday awaiting trial over the publication of an article Burma’s government believes was detrimental to the country’s stability.

They are being prosecuted, along with other staff and the publisher of the journal, for the publication on July 7 of a news story which quoted a statement from activist group Movement for Democracy Current Force (MDCF) announcing the supposed “election” of a new interim government.

The journal’s staff members are being charged with undermining public order under Article 5 (d) and (j) of the Emergency Act 1950, which together carry a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

On Tuesday, the Pabedan Township Court in Rangoon ruled that the three be kept in custody for more questioning ahead of trial, according to defense lawyer Robert San Aung.

The three editors were sent to Insein prison, and reporter Kyaw Zaw Hein, who is expected to be remanded on Wednesday, is currently being held at the Sanchaung Township police station, he said.

Bi Mon Te Nay publisher Kyaw Min Khaing, his wife Ei Ei San and employee Yin Min Tun were arrested by Thai police in Mae Sot, Thailand, last week, before being handed over to Burmese authorities.

“The two publishers and their friend are from Mae Sot. Dr. Ei Ei San has been acquitted as there is no hard evidence against her. I am not sure if those arrested will be pronounced guilty or acquitted. It depends on their interrogation,” Robert San Aung said, adding that he did not know where the publisher, his wife and employee were being held.

The MDCF statement declared that National League for Democracy Chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic democratic forces had been “elected” by the people, and questioned the performance and legitimacy of the current government. The group’s leader, Htin Kyaw, and activists Tin Maung Kyi and Zaw Win have each been sentenced to six months in jail under the Burmese Penal Code’s Article 505(b)—spreading statements that undermine the state.

State media said on July 8 that the story published by Bi Mon Te Nay journal quoting the statement “may cause misunderstanding among the readers and defamation of the government, undermine the stability of the State and damage public interests.”