Court proceeds with case against prominent monk who ‘compared military chief to a cow’

A court in the pagoda-studded township of Amarapura decided on Thursday to proceed with defamation charges against a prominent monk who allegedly likened the head of the Myanmar military to a cow on Facebook.

U Thawbita, who played a lead role in the 2007 Saffron Revolution, posted a photo of commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing on a visit to a military-owned farm in 2018 and wrote “‘A cow entering a cattle farm” as a caption.  

Posts on U Thawbita’s page also blamed the military for a prison break in Hpa-An and suggested the military was worse than a natural disaster.

The court has been evaluating a complaint filed by lieutenant colonel Myo Khaing Win against the monk since September 2018. 

U Thawbita is out on bail but faces a two-year prison sentence under section 66d of the telecoms law if found guilty. The next hearing is scheduled for September 10.

The monk has argued that the complaint should be rejected because it was not made by the aggrieved person, something which is required under a 2017 amendment to the law.

“In terms of legalities, the answer is clear.,” he told Myanmar Now at Thursday’s hearing. “But the court accepted the charge.”

He has not confirmed or denied writing the posts in question but said on Thursday the prosecution has been unable to prove it was him. 

Aung Thein, the monk’s lawyer, said his client could appeal to a higher court but it was rare for charges to be dropped at this stage.

“This also depends on the power of the people filing the lawsuit. In this case, it’s the military,” he said.

Myo Khaing Win, the plaintiff, was not present at the court on Thursday and Myanmar Now was unable to reach him for comment. 

The military also filed another charge against the 40-year-old monk under article 505b of the Penal Code in November last year. But two separate courts rejected the charges in April and May.

U Thawbita was expelled from the Mahagandaryone monastery in Amarapura shortly after the case was filed against him. He now lives at the Mingalar Myanmar monastery in Patheingyi township.

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