Myo Yan Naung Thein, secretary of the ruling party’s central research committee, is on trial for criminal defamation, accused of insulting the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
He has been detained without bail since early November, when he criticised the army’s response to attacks by Rohingya Muslim militants in a Facebook post.
“This is not insulting – this is just criticising, with facts,” says Ma Cho. “This is freedom of speech.”
He is one of dozens of people arrested on similar charges under the rule of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.
Many expected the party – a large number of whose members are former political prisoners – to bring a swift end to prosecutions brought under broad and repressive laws. Instead, they have sky-rocketed.
PEN Myanmar says at least 38 people have been charged with online defamation since April, most under the notorious Article 66D of the Telecommunications Law. Although the legislation was created by the previous military-backed administration to cover the booming telecoms sector, between 2013 and 2015, it was used just seven times.