By SU MYAT MON & SEAN GLEESON | FRONTIER
YANGON — U Myo Yan Naung Thein has become the seventh person to be jailed under Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law under the current government, after the prominent National League for Democracy official was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment on Friday afternoon.
The secretary of the NLD’s Central Committee for Research and Strategy Studies, Myo Yan Naung Thein, 42, was arrested last October after calling for the resignation of military chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing in a Facebook post.
His comments followed the attack on police posts in northern Rakhine State by insurgents in that month, and prompted a complaint from Lt-Col Lynn Tun of the military’s Yangon Regional Command.
Myo Yan Naung Thein was denied bail by the presiding judge in November and has been held in Insein Prison since his arrest. Friday marked his 23rd appearance at the Kamaryut Township court since his detention began.
“It seems like we can’t touch the commander-in-chief, and anyone who says things against him will have to end up in jail,” the defendant told reporters after the verdict, before he was taken back into custody.
A total of 61 people have now faced charges under the infamous section of the 2013 Telecommunications Law, including 54 under the current government.
Five were convicted and given custodial sentences during the U Thein Sein administration — two less than have now been convicted since the NLD took office last year.
At Myo Yan Naung Thein’s penultimate court appearance on Tuesday, NLD central executive committee member U Hanthar Myint said the defendant had not intended to injured the feelings of the Tatmadaw chief.
“His post was not meant defame Min Aung Hlaing. He just used the kind of words which people can easily understand,” he told the court.
Taking the stand as an expert witness for the defence later that day, U Ant Khaung Min, the chief editor of the Myanmar Thandaw Saint Journal, pointed out that Section 354 of the 2008 Constitution gave every the people of Myanmar the right to free speech.
“I assume that every citizen has the right to express their own feelings and opinions based on what they think of the government’s work,” he said.
As head of a key NLD think-tank, Myo Yan Naung Thein is widely regarded as one of the leading lights of the party’s younger generation.
Prior to the new term of parliament commencing last January, he had been responsible for educating the party’s new lawmakers on parliamentary procedure.
Maung Saungkha, himself a former political prisoner after a Telecommunications Law conviction in 2015 and a leading proponent of reforming the law, was present for many of the defendant’s court appearances.
“If the government can’t amend 66(d), there will be many more of these cases,” he told reporters outside the court Friday.
Despite the NLD’s parliamentary ranks boasting scores of former political prisoners, the government has so far shrugged off calls to reform the controversial law.
With time served, Myo Yan Naung Thein is expected to be released in three weeks.