Eleven Media CEO a No-Show for Police Questioning

By Htun Htun 10 November 2016

Eleven Media Group CEO Dr. Than Htut Aung did not appear at a police station for questioning on Thursday afternoon following a police statement that he would be arrested later that evening if he failed to show.

On Wednesday, Rangoon chief minister U Phyo Min Thein filed a complaint with the Tamwe Township police station against Eleven Media Group and its CEO Dr. Than Htut Aung under Article 66(d) of Burma’s Telecommunications Law.

“I have sued Dr. Than Htut Aung and Eleven Media Group under Article 66(d) for their Facebook post. I am also preparing to take legal proceedings against [them] for their newspaper publication,” U Phyo Min Thein said at a press conference, referring to an editorial written by Dr. Than Htut Aung.

The editorial headlined ‘A Year After the Nov. 8 Poll’ was featured in the Nov. 6 issue of Eleven Media’s daily newspaper. It read, “Many citizens, whose minimum [daily] wage is US$2.50, are not satisfied with the news that a chief minister whose [monthly] salary is only around US$2,500 wears a Patek Philippe watch worth about $100,000.”

The editorial claimed that the watch was presented by a rich man imprisoned under drug charges who had recently been released from prison and subsequently won a construction tender following the government’s transfer of power.

No name was mentioned in the article but of the three businessmen who recently won a construction tender for Rangoon’s new city plan, U Maung Weik is the only one to have been jailed for drug charges.

“I have never given a Patek Philippe watch to any chief minister and I am prepared to be questioned in court regarding these charges,” said U Maung Weik at a conference at the Novotel Hotel on Wednesday morning.

U Maung Weik went to the Tamwe Township police station at 4 p.m. on Thursday as summoned for police questioning. No further details of that event are available at this time.

At a press conference on Wednesday evening, U Phyo Min Thein showed his watch to reporters, saying he did not have a Patek Philippe watch, and that the watch he wears is a Rolex that was purchased by his wife.

Prior to the editorial, posts had circulated on Facebook alleging that U Phyo Min Thein wore a Patek Philippe watch.

“We will proceed according to the law,” U Wai Phyo, chief editor of Eleven Media Group, told The Irrawaddy regarding U Phyo Min Thein’s lawsuit.

U Phyo Min Thein said he sent a letter to the Myanmar Press Council asking it to intervene in line with the law regarding the newspaper editorial and that he would also contact members of the Asia News Network as the translated editorial was published in some international media. On Thursday night, the Myanmar Press Council released a statement that it would not intervene in the case because the chief minister had already filed a lawsuit.

U Win Htein, a central executive committee member of the National League for Democracy (NLD) defended U Phyo Min Thein and said, “he does not need to take bribes because his family is rich.”

“It is groundless and they have no evidence,” said U Win Htein, referring to the allegation. “Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has warned ministers to steer clear of corruption. She said corrupt ministers would be expelled and imprisoned,” he told The Irrawaddy.

U Wai Phyo said that he would take legal proceedings against U Win Htein, stating that he said unflattering things that could affect the image of Eleven Media Group in an interview with the BBC.

Eleven Media Group at its press conference on Tuesday said it would fully cooperate in finding the truth on the condition that a commission would be formed to carry out a transparent investigation into the allegations put forth in the editorial.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko