Myanmar Woman Sentenced To 6 Months Jail Over Facebook Post

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A woman in Myanmar has been sentenced to six months in jail for a Facebook post that made fun of the country’s military.

Burmese activist Chaw Sandi Tun was arrested in October for her Facebook post, which compared the color of the army chief’s uniform with a longyi (sarong) worn by Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy party.

Chaw was sentenced under Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law, which bans defamation and ‘disturbing’ people.

The BBC reports: She was found guilty of insulting the army chief by suggesting he wrap Aung San Suu Kyi’s sarong round his head.

This followed humorous exchanges by internet users who noticed the colour of the army’s new uniform matched some of the pro-democracy leader’s clothing.

Critics say the conviction is part of a wider crackdown on protest and free speech in Myanmar, also called Burma.

The Facebook post in question was written in October after the army unveiled its new uniform as part of a rebranding exercise.

The army’s commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing – who BBC correspondents say is a prolific Facebook user – modelled the new uniform online. The light green colour matched a sarong previously worn by Ms Suu Kyi.

Mynamar military uniform
Commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing modelling the Burmese army’s new uniform

This set off a series of internet memes, with composite pictures made to suggest the army chief was mimicking Ms Suu Kyi’s sartorial taste.

The court in Ayeyawady Region found that Ms Chaw, 25, an activist for Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), shared the picture and added her own comment, saying: “If you love Mother Suu so much, why don’t you wrap her sarong around your head?”

The activist was charged under the Electronic Transactions Act, which contains a broadly worded clause that makes it illegal to “extort, threaten, obstruct, defame, disturb, inappropriately influence or intimidate”.

Her lawyer denied she shared the picture and her mother, Ei San, said: “We will appeal as we are not satisfied.”

In another case, well-known activist Patrick Khum Jaa Lee awaits trial after being accused of criticising the army on Facebook. He was also arrested in October and faces up to three years in prison if convicted.

Aung Nay Myo, a freelance photojournalist was arrested in February for a Facebook post mocking President Thein Sein.

Niamh Harris
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