Activist groups call for immediate release of social media detainees

19 October 2015
Activist groups call for immediate release of social media detainees
Photo: Patrick Kum Jaa Lee

‘The week of 12th October 2015 has been marked by a series of deeply troubling incidents which call into serious question, whether freedom of expression and genuine access to justice exists in Myanmar,’ according to a joint statement by the Gender Equality Network (GEN) & the Women’s Organizations Network (WON) on 18 October.
The statement continues, ‘On 12th October Chaw Sandhi Tun was arrested for sharing a satirical post on social media which compared the military uniform to a longyi that Aung San Suu Kyi was wearing. The post tapped into deeply held norms about the inferiority and indeed perceived offensiveness of women’s clothing, to men. Chaw Sandhi Tun is currently being detained in Maubin Prison in the Ayeyarwaddy Region. She has been charged under Section 34 (d) of the Electronic Transactions Law with a potential a three-year prison term, and, at the time of writing, had not yet had access to a lawyer.
On the 14th October 2015, peace activist Patrick Kum Jaa Lee was arrested at his home, without warrant, for a Facebook post showing someone stepping on a photograph of the Myanmar Army’s Commander in Chief. Initially detained in Hlaing Police Station, Patrick has now been moved to Insein Prison, and is still without access to his lawyer.
Charged under the Telecommunications Act, 66-D, Patrick Kum Jaa Lee could face a maximum of three years in jail.
That so little information has been made available about both of these cases in the early hours and days after their arrest and subsequent detention is deeply worrying.
Myanmar has made strong commitments to becoming a genuinely democratic nation, but if sharing a post on Facebook can result in immediate detention without access to a lawyer, and the threat of three years of a life lost, can Myanmar truly be considered a democracy?’  
The statement concludes, ‘We call on the President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and the whole of government, to take stock of what is happening in full view of its own people and the international community, as the country moves closer to much anticipated elections in November 2015.  
We call on the support of all Parliamentarians, civil society, development partners and diplomatic colleagues, to join with us in calling for an end to the unjust detention of social media users, and for the immediate release of Chaw Sandhi Tun and Saya Patrick Kum Jaa Lee.’