Michael Kyaw Myint: ‘I can be put in prison at any time’

ON JUNE 2, Ko Michael Kyaw Myint made front-page news when he held a press conference and accused U Tin Htun, an associate of Yangon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein, of accepting a K1.2 million bribe to facilitate a land deal. (Tin Htun has denied the accusation; the government has not responded.)

The following day Michael Kyaw Myint was arrested and has been charged with five offences across three township. After being found guilty under the Habitual Offenders Act and handed a suspended sentence in North Dagon Township in early July, he is still facing charges in relation to online defamation and staging an illegal protest. On August 11 he was granted bail and spoke to Frontier’s Su Myat Mon shortly afterward.

Why did you hold a public event to make your accusations?

Well I have a bad habit, which I don’t like about myself; if I am going to do something harmful to other people, I will say so ahead of time. Two or three weeks prior to the press conference, I told officials that it would happen soon, but they didn’t care.

I foresaw the consequences from this case, that I would be imprisoned.

When were you granted bail in the section 66(d) case?

I was granted bail on August 8 from Dagon Township Court, but was brought back to Insein Prison because there was still a case in Tarmwe under section 19 [of the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law]. I applied again for bail on August 11 at Tarmwe court, which was accepted, and I returned home.

Did you expect to be granted bail?

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No, despite applying for bail I didn’t have much hope. I heard about how hard it was for U Than Htut Aung, the CEO of Eleven Media, who was sued in a similar case, to be granted bail under 66(d) – the apologies and the pictures taken of him in a wheelchair and so on.

I was surprised that I was quickly granted bail. I am happy to be able to spend time with my family while facing this case.

I didn’t even need to provide a medical letter like others have had to in order to get bail. But I am afraid that there is something going on behind this.

I am also trapped by the Habitual Offenders Act because I can be put into prison at any time … I have to be careful about everything I do.

You have said Tin Htun is Phyo Min Thein’s personal staff officer, or PSO. Why then has he denied this?

Everybody – for example, all businesspeople dealing with the Yangon Region government, every party member of the NLD and people working in the regional government office – know him as PSO to Phyo Min Thein.

If he was not a PSO of Phyo Min Thein, why would he be at his office rather than Phyo Min Thein’s home?

Why do you think you were charged across different townships in Yangon?

Even if I am not an expert on the law, I understand that if someone has done something not in line with the law, that person should be prosecuted with the law that is most relevant. For example, someone commits a murder, that person should face trial under [the section of the Penal Code].

For me, I did a press conference. Upon this act then I can be sued with one law … for instance, [66(d)] or under the Habitual Offenders Act. But [the government] is finding many reasons to prosecute me across Yangon townships … in order to destroy me.

I am pretty sure that I will be imprisoned under 66(d).

Why do you say you expect to be convicted under 66(d)?

Well, I don’t know how to defend myself under the Telecommunications Law because I already uploaded [the accusation] onto a Facebook page. So the evidence is there already.

What will you do once the case is finished?

The entire case between me and the regional government is widely known among all the people from the politics, business and other fields.

Saying it with my genuine mind, I want the truth, and want Ko Phyo Min Thein to take the responsibility as an equal for what he has done to me.

I will continue until the truth of this case is uncovered. But what I want to add is that this case is about more than a dispute over some land. That’s just the surface. There are many hidden and deep issues behind this, and people will come to know about it later.

TOP PHOTO: Teza Hlaing | Frontier

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