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Local ANP leader to sue Facebook user for defaming party members

The signboard outside the Arakan National Party headquarters in Sittwe. (Photo: DVB)

A local Arakan National Party (ANP) chairman says he is suing a Facebook user under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunication Law for allegedly defaming party officials.

Maung Tin Tun, the ANP’s local chairman in Aungseik village in Rathedaung Township, told DVB he had lodged an official complaint against a Facebook user by the name of Thar Hla Tun for slandering some senior ANP officials on the social media site, as well as using his photograph without permission.

“[Thar Hla Tun] slandered the ANP leaders, including Dr Aung Maung, on his Facebook page and used my photo without permission,” said Maung Tin Tun. “I have therefore lodged a complaint with police, and will be pursuing legal action against [Thar Hla Tun].”

ANP General-Secretary Tun Aung Kyaw said that the party had previously been the target of defamatory posts on social media on several occasions but did not pursue legal action, and the decision to sue user Thar Hla Tun was made by Maung Tin Tun at his own discretion.

“There have been various attempts to defame the ANP but we didn’t sue anyone,” said Tun Aung Kyaw. “The decision to sue this time was not taken by the party’s central committee but by an aggrieved individual party member whose photo was misused.”

Police in the Arakan state capital Sittwe confirmed that they had received a complaint against Facebook user Thar Hla Tun on the evening on 30 December and were now working to bring the accused into custody for questioning.

Burma’s Telecommunication Law Article 66(d) covers “online defamation” and has been used, many observers say, to silence government critics and the media.

On 28 December, a parliamentary commission headed by former speaker of the Lower House, Shwe Mann, announced that it was calling for revisions to the controversial law.

The ANP was formed in June 2013 as a merger of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP), led by Dr. Aye Maung, and the Arakan League for Democracy (ALD), which was headed by Aye Thar Aung.

In the 2015 general election, the party won 10 seats in the Lower House, 12 in the Upper House, and 22 of the 47 seats in the regional assembly of Arakan, also known as Rakhine.

But persistent reports indicate that old loyalties continue to divide the ANP. In June, DVB reported that almost 1,000 members had threatened to quit the party over the dismissal of three senior members in Kyauktaw.