Myanmar Court Sentences Military Daughter for Supporting Ruling Party in Facebook Video

Thinzar Than Min said she was threatened by army to support the military-aligned opposition in Nov. 8 polls.
2020-12-03
Share
Myanmar Court Sentences Military Daughter for Supporting Ruling Party in Facebook Video Thinzar Than Min outside of the Pakokku Township Court in Magwe, Myanmar, December 7, 2020.
Citizen Journalist

Authorities in Myanmar on Monday sentenced the daughter of an army officer for describing on Facebook pressure and threats to her family to vote for the pro-military opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party in general elections last month.

On Nov. 8. National leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) took 315 of the 440 seats in the parliament’s House of Representatives, and 161 of the 224 seats in the House of Nationalities, while the USDP, a party made up of former soldiers, won 26 in the former and seven in the latter.

Troubles began for Thinzar Than Min, when the 25-year-old posted a video on Facebook Sept. 23, saying she would support national leader the NLD, notwithstanding instructions to all military families to vote USDP.

“We have been pressured to vote USDP since my father is a solider,” said the daughter of a warrant officer and medical assistant named Than Min. He serves in the 235th infantry battalion stationed in Pakkoku township in the central Magwe region.

“They have threatened to remove my father from his position if I vote NLD. I may be punished for posting this video too,” she said in the video.

On Monday Thinzar Than Min was jailed for nine months with hard labor for violating article 505(a) of the penal code, for causing members of the military “to mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail” in their duties.

Lt. Col. Aung Khine Win, a representative of the army, filed a lawsuit against her on Nov. 25.

Cho Cho Mar, the lawyer representing Thinzar Than Min, told RFA’s Myanmar Service the court dropped two charges against her but that for the 505(a), she had no way to mount a defense.

“We have no witnesses for the defense. There was no witness present when the incident occurred, so we did not submit any defense witness,” said Cho Cho Mar.

“We have yet to ask the defendant’s decision on appealing the sentence. It’s entirely up to her,” she said.

Following her sentencing at court Monday, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a nonprofit run by former Burmese political prisoner now in exile, added Thinzar Than Min to its list of political prisoners. 

“We designated her as a political prisoner because she was exercising her right to free speech to expose the military’s wrongdoing,” Aung Myo Kyaw, a member of AAPP’s executive committee, told RFA.

“It is not acceptable that they charged her under 505, that’s why we are saying she’s a political prisoner,” he said.

The AAPP says that five years after Aung San Suu Kyi replaced the USDP-led quasi-military government after inning 2015 elections, Myanmar still has 36 political prisoners, including Thinzar Than Min.

War Min Maung, of the NLD’s legal aid team in Pakkoku told RFA that Thinzar Than Min’s video post did not go against article 505(a).

“The article prohibits the act of spreading rumors to incite mutiny. Thinzar Than Min’s live broadcast mainly talked about being pressured to vote for the military… the article clearly gives an exception from offense for posting truthful information, so this punishment is not suitable,” War Min Maung said.

RFA attempted to contact the plaintiff in the case, Lt. Col. Aung Khine Win, as well as military spokesman Maj. Gen Zaw Min Tun, but both were unavailable.

Zaw Min Tun had previously spoken on the case during a Nov. 27 press conference, saying that it dealt with problems of a personal nature, and that he could say nothing in detail due to the wishes of the individuals involved.

He also said that Thinzar Than Min’s legal case would have no effect on her father’s position in the military.

The chief minister of Magwe region’s government said he wanted to see Thinzar Than Min exonerated as soon as possible.

“People always argue on social media. How can we decide who is right, who is wrong or who is just and who is unjust? It is obvious. I want to say that this sentence is not representative of our government,” said Aung Mo Nyo, who added that he had sympathy for Thinzar Than Min because she was of an age similar to that of his own daughter.

“We have collected some cash from members of parliament in Pakkoku and donated it to her. We wish to see her released from prison as soon as possible and that she will keep striving for the betterment of the nation after she get released in future.”

Sources close to Thinzar Than Min’s parents told RFA that she was not allowed to meet any family members, have any guests, or use her mobile phone during her detention.

One source, who requested anonymity for security reasons, told RFA that her parents are now under surveillance.

This was her first post. I don’t know the details about what happened on the military base, but she posted that live video and deleted it the next morning. We thought that would be all,” the source said.

“We never saw that court case coming. Her father and mother didn’t come to the court hearing. She cried because her parents could not come… I heard guards are assigned to watch her parents around the clock,” said the source.

RFA attempted to contact Thinzar Than Min’s father for comment but neither he nor her mother was available.

The U.S.-based civil liberties monitor Freedom House rated Myanmar “not free” in its 2020 survey, which said “Myanmar’s transition from military dictatorship to democracy has stalled under the leadership of the National League for Democracy,” and noted that “journalists, demonstrators, and ordinary people risk legal charges and detention for voicing dissent.”

“Online activity is also subject to criminal punishment under several broadly worded legal provisions, and an increasing number of journalists and social media users faced defamation and incitement cases filed by the military and politicians during 2019,” said the report. On a scale of 100 for overall political and civil liberties, Myanmar received 30, falling between Zimbabwe and Iraq.

Reported by Kyaw Lwin Oo and Nay Myo Htun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

Comments (0)

View all comments.

Add comment

Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.

View Full Site