That the military is still the master in Myanmar was left in no doubt when a top Burmese filmmaker was handed down a prison sentence this week for Facebook posts critical of the men in uniform.
The sentence will be executed though the film director Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi is suffering from liver cancer and is due for a major operation.
The Insein Township Court has given film director Ko Ko Gyi a one-year prison sentence under section 505 (A) of the Penal Code for Facebook posts critical of the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military).
Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi , a well-known film director, is the founder of the Human Dignity Film Institute and
organises the ‘Human Rights, Human Dignity’ International Film Festival in Myanmar.
Gyi was arrested on April 12 after a Myanmar military official accused him of defamation for a series of Facebook posts critical of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution and the military’s role in politics.
Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, detained in Yangon’s Insein prison for more than three months since his arrest, was denied bail, though he was suffering from liver cancer.
His doctors say he was to undergo a major operation earlier this year which has been indefinitely delayed due to his prison sentence.
Myanmar’s film makers and film festival organisers have been testing the limits of its censorship laws that are increasingly reducing the space for freedom of speech and press despite the country’s return to electoral democracy.
Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, said Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi should never have been arrested, much less prosecuted and imprisoned, for airing critical views about Myanmar’s military which blatantly abuses human rights.
“His case shows why Myanmar’s civilian government must urgently use its overwhelming majority in the Parliament to revoke laws which clearly violate the right of free expression, including Article 505(a) of the penal code and article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act,” Robertson said following the
verdict on filmmaker Gyi.
Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s East and Southeast Asia Director also insisted the verdict was flawed.
“Peaceful comments on Facebook are not a crime, even if they criticise officials, and his is yet another politically-motivated trial. The authorities should drop these vindictive charges, and Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi must be immediately and unconditionally released,” Bequelin said.