LGBT beauty queen behind bars after actress files defamation suit


YANGON — Concerns have been raised for the welfare of transgender model Ma Myo Ko Ko San, who was arrested on Tuesday on defamation charges after a suit filed by film actress Ma Wut Hmone Shwe Yi.

Myo Ko Ko San, 23, was arrested Tuesday evening at Yangon Airport evening after returning to the country from Bangkok and is currently being held at the Yankin Township police station.

She is facing charges under the notorious Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act after allegedly defaming Wut Hmone Shwe Yi, 28, in a series of administrator posts on Cele Cele Small, a Facebook page which in recent months has grown to become Myanmar’s most popular forum for celebrity gossip.

Ma Shin Thant, a friend of Myo Ko Ko San, said the model would face trial on January 31.

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While awaiting her flight in Bangkok, less than three hours before her arrest, Myo Ko Ko San took to Facebook to deny any association with Cele Cele Small. Her claim has been backed by a number of subsequent posts to the page denying the model’s involvement, which were published after her arrest and the confiscation of her phone by police.

“I don’t know how she can be the administrator for this page,” Shin Thant told Frontier. “If so, why are there new posts on the page from other people?”

Shin Thant questioned whether the arrest of the model, a 2014 winner of the Miss International Queen transgender beauty pageant in Thailand, had been motivated by her sexuality.

At an arraignment hearing shortly after her arrest, Myo Ko Ko San had objected to being detained without evidence. The presiding judge nonetheless ordered her continued detention while IT experts investigated the case.

Upon her detention, Myo Ko Ko San had been placed in a cell with other prisoners, and was only moved to a female cell after complaining to her jailers. She was told that if another woman was held on remand at the station, she would have to be moved back to the male cell, Shin Thant said.

Daw Zarli Aye, a lawyer with the International Commission of Jurists, told Frontier that police had also fallen short of their professional duties by sending plainclothes officers to arrest her without identifying themselves or stating the reasons for her detention.

A popular forum for celebrity muckraking, Cele Cele Small has built a following based on lurid suggestions about the personal lives of its subject matter. The eponymous ‘small’ of the page’s title is a common slang word for mistress.

The page has published around half a dozen posts about Wut Hmone Shwe Yi, the star of more than a dozen feature films and a two-time Myanmar Academy Award winner, since the start of the year.

Over the course of two weeks, the author of the posts alleged the actress had travelled to Macau with an older gentleman and was romantically involved with members of powerful Myanmar military and business families, along with penning barbs directed at her personal appearance.

Wut Hmone Shwe Yi was not available for comment on Thursday.

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