Myanmar Military Sues Nine Students For Defamation

Myanmar's military is suing a group of high school and college students for performing an antiwar play earlier this month in which they allegedly defamed the armed forces, one of the students said.

Four high school and five college students from Pyinnya Parami Charity School staged the play on Jan. 9 during a peace workshop organized by local civic organizations at a hotel in Pathein, capital of Ayeyarwaddy region.

Lt. Gen. Aung Myo Naing, commander of the Southwest Regional Military Command, filed a lawsuit against the group in the township court on Jan. 17 under Article 500 of Myanmar's criminal code for damaging the military's reputation by using language that defamed soldiers and their families.

"I was charged under Article 500 as the main perpetrator, and the eight others were charged under Article 500/34 as accomplices," the leader of the performance group Aung Khant Zaw told RFA's Myanmar Service.

"The court will hear the case on Feb. 8, and we'll try to get bail on that day," he said.

The students performed the skit to show that they advocate peace in Myanmar and do not support various civil wars between the government army and ethnic armed groups, some of which have plagued the country for decades, Aung Khant Zaw said.

In presenting the skit, the students had no intention of insulting any person or any specific group, he said.

Pathein Police Superintendent Zaw Min Tun told the Democratic Voice of Burma that officers are investigating the case, but charges have yet to be filed against the defendants.

Myanmar's civilian-led government has made peace and national reconciliation one of its top priorities, so the country can move ahead with political dialogue and economic development.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the country's de facto leader, has spearheaded efforts to bring warring parties to the negotiating table by organizing the 21-century Panglong Conference, the next meeting of which is expected in February.

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