Actor Tun Lin Thein jailed for anti-army graffiti

YANGON — A Myanmar actor has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison for scribbling curse-laden insults about the military on his car, a police officer said Saturday.

Tun Lin Thein, a 35-year-old who appears in Myanmar music videos, slammed the military as an “army of dogs” and spray-painted a number of other expletives across his silver Nissan in March.

He was arrested shortly after and convicted of defamation by a Yangon court on Friday. 

“The court sentenced him for two years and nine months,” police officer Thein Han, whose team handled the actor’s arrest, told AFP.

Freedoms have flourished in Myanmar since the military junta stepped down in 2011, paving the way for November elections that swept democracy activist Daw Aung San Suu Kyi into power.

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But limits on expression remain, with criticism of the army especially taboo.

Police said the actor was also charged with defaming the national flag and a Buddhist flag, which he taped to his car alongside the graffiti.

“His behaviour was not only abusive to the Tatmadaw but also to our religion and national flag. That is why he had to receive this sentence,” Thein Han said.

He added that the act appeared to be motivated by a personal grievance, saying officers believed the insults were levelled at the military family of the actor’s ex-wife.

Hopes are high that Aung San Suu Kyi’s new civilian government will accelerate the stunning democratic transition that has gripped Myanmar since the end of junta rule.

But she still has to contend with an influential army that has retained control over key government ministries and a quarter of parliament seats.

There have been several controversial defamation prosecutions carried out during Aun San Suu Kyi’s first few months in power, including a six-month sentence handed to man who wrote a poem about having a tattoo of the former ex-army president on his penis.

A film about conflict between the military and ethnic Shan groups in the mid-20th century was also pulled from a human rights film festival in June.

The order was issued by the Ministry of Information’s 15-member film review committee, which said it feared the movie would undermine “national reconciliation” efforts.

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