Myanmar film-maker charged over Facebook posts

Film-maker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi was detained three months ago after a complaint from an army officer.
Film-maker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi was detained three months ago after a complaint from an army officer.

YANGON • A Myanmar judge yesterday charged film-maker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi over Facebook posts he made about the powerful military, meaning he will stand trial despite concern over his health and an outcry from human rights groups.

The director, who runs a human rights film festival, was detained three months ago after a complaint from an army officer that listed 10 of his Facebook posts.

In the posts, he criticised the military's political role and Myanmar's 2008 Constitution, which was drawn up by the former ruling junta and which civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi is attempting to amend.

The case is one of many the military has launched against critics in recent months. Some activists want Ms Suu Kyi to do more to protect free expression, but Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi has said she should not be blamed for his incarceration.

He pleaded not guilty to the charge, which carries a maximum two-year prison term for statements that could cause a soldier or other service member "to mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty".

But after preliminary hearings, the judge at Insein Township Court, in the main city of Yangon, ruled that the posts caused soldiers to lose respect for the military.

A separate defamation case under a telecommunications law has been filed against Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi over the same Facebook posts.

After yesterday's ruling, the film-maker told reporters he did not intend to damage or disrespect the military.

"The military was not destroyed. There is no proof that respect was lost in the military, but I was charged," he said.

The prosecutor declined to comment.

 
 

The complainant, Lieutenant-Colonel Lin Tun, told the court he filed the lawsuit because he took offence at the film-maker's posts. "I am unsatisfied with his posts. This wouldn't have happened if he did not write anything," he said.

Defence lawyer Robert San Aung said after the hearing: "They couldn't provide any proof on their accusations and yet they charged him."

The condition of his client, who has recently undergone cancer treatment, was deteriorating in detention, said the lawyer.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2019, with the headline 'Film-maker charged over Facebook posts'. Print Edition | Subscribe