Students Fined Over Anti-War Performance
By Salai Thant Zin 6 April 2018
PATHEIN, Irrawaddy Region — The Pathein Township Court in Irrawaddy Region on Wednesday fined eight of nine students who were sued by the Myanmar Army for defamation more than a year ago.
The Myanmar Army, or Tatmadaw, sued nine students for defamation in January last year after they staged a drama that was critical of military clashes with ethnic armed groups during a peace discussion at the Pathein Hotel in Pathein, the capital of the Irrawaddy Region.
The students performed a satirical comedy in which a news agency called ‘Oxygen’ interviewed the supporters of conflict in Myanmar. The drama was deemed to mock those who held protests in favor of the Tatmadaw.
“We did not want to harm either the military or ethnic armed groups,” lead organizer of the drama Ko Aung Khant Zaw told The Irrawaddy in January last year. “The message of our drama is that we don’t want wars.”
Two students were fined 50,000 kyats each, and six others were fined 30,000 kyats each. The ninth student Myo Ko Ko failed to appear in court, and the Pathein Township Court will issue an arrest warrant for him.
“The judge assumed that the script we recited during the drama did not directly refer to soldiers and their families (but was instead simply an anti-war message). So, he only imposed a fine on us,” said Ko Aung Khant Zaw.
After four months of trials at the Pathein Township Court, the judge decided to charge only lead organizers Ko Aung Khant Zaw and Ko Myat Thu Htet for defamation and acquitted the seven others.
Then, the army appealed to the Pathein District Court, which overruled the verdict of the township court. The township court then heard the case again and imposed a fine.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.