Burmese activist jailed for comparing army uniform to Aung San Suu Kyi's sarong

Chaw Sandi Tun was sentenced under the Electronic Transactions Act

Serina Sandhu
Tuesday 29 December 2015 15:37 GMT
Military officials can be seen wearing the light green uniform
Military officials can be seen wearing the light green uniform

An Amnesty International researcher has called for the immediate release of a Burmese activist who has been jailed for six months after she was found guilty of insulting the country’s army and the colour of its uniform on social media.

Chaw Sandi Tun wrote the Facebook post after the army unveiled a new light green uniform - a similar colour to a sarong worn by politician and activist Aung San Suu Kyi.

The post, believed to be aimed at the army chief General Min Aung Hlaing, read: “If you love her [Ms Suu Kyi] so much, put a piece of her longyi [sarong] on your head.”

But the idea of a man wearing women’s clothing is traditionally deemed as offensive in Burma - also known as Myanmar - Amnesty International said.

Tun, 25, a member of Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, was sentenced under the Electronic Transactions Act. It bans using the telecoms network to “extort, threaten, obstruct, defame, disturb, inappropriately influence or intimidate”.

According to the Irrawaddy news site, Tun's lawyer, Robert San Aung, said his client denied sharing the post.

“The rule of law in Burma is isolated. Others who spread hate speech [online] that assaults race and religion and the community are free while she was jailed,” he said.

At the time of her arrest in October, Laura Haigh, Amnesty International’s Myanmar Researcher, said: “It is deeply worrying that the authorities now appear to be moving their repression into the digital sphere. In Myanmar, human rights defenders and political activists regularly rely on Facebook to share information and communicate.”

After Tun's sentence was announced, Ms Haigh called for her immediate release from prison.

"This is a outrageous sentence - Chaw Sandi Tun should never have had to stand trial in the first place for a harmless Facebook post. She should be immediately and unconditionally released. Coming so soon after Myanmar's elections, this is a vivid reminder of how repressive conditions still are in the country, in particular for those who dare to challenge or even just mock the military."

In October, Patrick Kum Jaa Lee was also arrested for a Facebook post which showed someone stepping on a photo of the army chief. He faces up to three years in prison if found guilty.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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