Authorities in Myanmar have arrested a young opposition activist and charged her with “defamation” after she posted comments online comparing the country’s new military uniforms to a sarong worn by Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
Nearly two dozen officers arrested 25-year-old Chaw Sandi Tun on Monday evening at a meditation center in the commercial capital Yangon and took her to the police station in neighboring Ayeyawady Region’s Maubin district, where she was charged in court Tuesday, her friend May Thazin Hnin said.
“She was arrested last night and her trial was held today,” May Thazin Hnin told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“She was charged under Article 34(d) and sent to Maubin jail [pending further court proceedings],” she said, adding that only family members have been permitted to meet with her in custody.
Chaw Sandi Tun is next due to appear in court on Oct. 27.
May Thazin Hnin said Chaw Sandi Tun had been detained “because she posted a collage [on Facebook] showing Aung San Suu Kyi wearing a green traditional longyi (sarong) next to photos of Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing and other military personnel donning newly redesigned uniforms” of a similar color.
“Text affixed to the image read, ‘They like the color of Mother Suu’s longyi, so they had it tailored and are now wearing it themselves,’” she said.
In Myanmar, it is considered an insult to imply that a man would wear a htamein, which is the woman’s version of a Burmese sarong.
Chaw Sandi Tun was arrested on the same day that Lt-Col Kyaw Htin of the military’s Southwest Command in Ayeyawady’s Pathein district filed a suit against her under Article 34(d) of Myanmar’s Electronic Transactions Law.
According to the article, anyone found guilty of altering digital information in a way deemed to constitute “defamation” is subject to up to five years in prison.
Chaw Sandi Tun is a former member of the Maubin district Student’s Union who had taken part in student demonstrations against a controversial new National Education Law earlier this year in Ayeyawady.
She has since resigned from the union and joined the local chapter of the NLD to assist with the party’s campaign ahead of general elections set for Nov. 8. May Thazin Hnin said Chaw Sandi Tun had been assisting with flood relief measures in Ayeyawady when she was arrested.
The Irrawaddy online journal on Tuesday cited Maubin police chief Thein Aung as saying he was not authorized to comment on the case.
Chaw Sandi Tun is believed to be the second person arrested in Myanmar this year after posting comments critical of the country’s authorities.
In February, authorities in northern Myanmar’s Sagaing region arrested freelance photographer Aung Nay Myo after he posted a photo on Facebook which allegedly mocked officials. He was released after three days of questioning.
Reported by Thiri Min Zin and Nay Rein Kyaw for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.