NLD researcher among 1,800 prisoners freed under pardon for Thingyan

A National League for Democracy researcher was among about 1,800 prisoners released under pardon on April 12, days after he was sentenced to six months’ jail for defamation.

U Myo Yan Naung Thein, 42, was sentenced by Yangon’s Kamaryut Township court on April 7 under the controversial Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act for defaming Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in a Facebook post last October.

The post had called for the military chief’s resignation in the aftermath of the attack by Islamic militants on police border posts in Rakhine State earlier that month that left nine officers dead.

Myo Yan Naung Thein, the secretary of the NLD’s Central Committee for Research and Strategy Studies, was held in Insein Prison after his arrest and was repeatedly denied bail. He was among prisoners nearing the end of their terms who were pardoned ahead of the Thingyan traditional new year celebrations.

He told reporters as he left Insein that he would work to have Section 66(d) amended, Radio Free Asia reported.

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“The responsibility for activists and politicians is to protect people if their interests are harmed,” the US broadcaster quoted him as saying.

“People shouldn’t be afraid of using Facebook. We have to amend it [Article 66(d)]. Protecting people is the responsibility of the current government.”

Of the 54 people charged under Section 66(d) since the NLD government took power on March 30 last year, Myo Yan Naung Thein is the seventh to be jailed.

Under the previous military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party government, seven people were charged under 66(d), of whom five received jail sentences.

The conviction of Myo Yan Naung Thein was “an insult to the freedom of information that Burma regained in 2012,” Mr Benjamin Ismail, head of the Asia-Pacific desk at Reporters Without Borders, said in a statement on April 12.

“It highlights the failure of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government to establish a favorable environment for freedom of expression, one in which online activists, bloggers and journalists should no longer have to censor themselves or fear becoming prisoners of conscience,” Ismail said.

“As it stands, the Telecommunications Law is blocking any improvement in freedom of expression and the right to provide news and information, and must be amended without delay,” he said.

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