BURMA: A man charged for having contact with overseas radio station


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-200-2008
ISSUES: Arbitrary arrest & detention, Freedom of expression, Judicial system, Military, Rule of law, State of emergency & martial law,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received detailed information on the case of a man who has been arrested and charged in Burma for having had contact with an overseas radio station, even though it is not illegal to do this. The man, Win Maw, was arrested following the nationwide protests in Burma one year ago for sending news abroad and has been charged with upsetting public tranquillity. His arrest and charging is just one among many cases in the continued crackdown on people involved in the rallies.


Win Maw waarrested on 27 November 2007 and charged by Special Branch police with having upset the public tranquility because during the protests against the increased fuel prices of thaAugust and then the monk-led protests of September he sent news by phone and email and took photographs for the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) radio, together withaassistant.

Win Maw, who was imprisoned previously for seven years under emergency regulations from 1996 to 2002 for performing as lead guitarist in a rock group, has been accused of sending false news abroad in order to damage the public well-being. The reason that the police have accused him of this offence is that it is not illegal for a person in Burma to have contact with overseas media, so by Win Maw sending the news to DVB he was not doing anything wrong: only if the police accuse him of sending false news withintent to harm the public can they try to make a case out of nothing.

The case opened against Win Maw at the end of March in a closed court, like other cases from the protests of last year, which is against the normal procedure of courts in Burma. Again as in other cases of its type from last year, the police couldn’t present anything to show that Win Maw had been sending the news in order to do what they said he had done.

The police gave a list of “evidence” to the court which includes legally-published books, some photos of democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, which also are not illegal, and acomputer hard disk. If Win Maw had prepared anything against the law as accused the police should have been able to find it on the hard disk and present it as evidence, but they have not. Also, what they recorded on the evidence list as 18 “political” texts they admitted in the court are actually just English learners from the American Center in Rangoon where Win Maw had gone to study. And, all of the witnesses being brought to the court are police except for two civilians, as required by law at the time of search, who were brought by the police for that purpose and are not independent.


The AHRC has been documenting cases of illegal arrest, detention and prosecution since the nationwide protests in Burma last September and has in recent months also issued anumber of other recent cases of young women imprisoned under similar circumstances and on similar charges, including the cases of three men who harboured a monk (AHRC-UAC-188-2008), Kam Lat Koat and two others (AHRC-UAC-177-2008), Ko Htin Kyaw (AHRC-UAC-146-2008), U Ohn Than (AHRC-UAC-131-2008), Honey Oo and Aung Min Naing (AHRC-UAC-083-2008), Ko Thiha (AHRC-UAC-052-2008) and Khin Sanda Win (AHRC-UAC-022-2008).

Similarly, it has been following the growing number of arrests and legal actions taken against persons who have launched their own cyclone relief operations since May. See on the arrest of human rights defender U Myint Aye and two others: AHRC-UAC-183-2008.

For links and other material on the protests in Burma of August and September 2007 see: http://campaigns.ahrchk.net/burmaprotests/

See also the comprehensive report on Burma: Burma, political psychosis and legal dementia” issued by the AHRC’s sister organisation and the 2007 AHRC Human Rights Report chapter on Burma.


Please write to the persons listed below to call for the charge against Win Maw to be dropped. Please note that for the purpose of the letter, the country should be referred to by its official title of Myanmar, rather than Burma.

Please be informed that the AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Myanmar and independence of judges and lawyers as well as the UN Special Representative on human rights defenders, the UN Working Group on arbitrary detention and the regional human rights office for Southeast Asia, calling for interventions into this case.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear ___________,

MYANMAR: Man arrested and charged for having contact with overseas radio

Details of accused: 
Win Maw (a.k.a. Maw Kyi), 46, resident of Kyundaw Ward, Sanchaung Township, Yangon
Primary officials involved: 
1. Police Major Ye Nyunt, No. La/58188, Special Branch
2. Police Captain Myint Than, No. La/112720, Special Branch
3. Inspector Kyaw Sein Win, Special Branch
4. Inspector Thet Tin, No. La/123903, Special Branch 
5. Inspector Khin Myint, No. La/126459, Special Branch (Myawaddy)
6. Inspector Myat Kyaw, No. La/112787, Special Branch
Charge and trial: Charged under section 505(b) of the Penal Code with upsetting public tranquility, Felony Case No. 313/2008; Mingalar-taungnyunt Township Court, Yangon, Judge U Tin Latt (Special Power) presiding

I am sorry to hear of a man who has been arrested and charged for having had contact with an overseas radio station during the unrest in Myanmar of August-September 2007 and am appealing to you for his immediate release.

According to the information that I have received, Win Maw was arrested on 27 November 2007 and charged by Special Branch police with having upset public tranquility because he sent news by phone and email and took photographs for the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) radio, together with an assistant.

I am interested to note that it is not an offence to send news to overseas media from Myanmar. Thus there is no category of special crime under which Win Maw could be charged and as a consequence the police have had to concoct the allegation that he was sending “false” news in order to damage the public well-being.

In order to prove this charge the police must show that the news that was sent was false and that it was done with the purpose of causing damage to the public tranquility. But they have presented no evidence of any sort to show this. Rather, the police “evidence” submitted to the court since the trial began on 28 March 2008 consists of odds and ends that they picked up from the house of the accused.

These items include some legally-published books that belonged to Win Maw’s father and bear his signature, some photos of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, which are not illegal, and acomputer hard disk. If Win Maw had committed the offence of which he had been accused then it should have been possible for the police to present evidence uncovered from the hard disk, but instead just the hard disk has been submitted as evidence. As if this wasn’t enough, what the police recorded on the evidence sheet as 18 “political” texts they admitted in court are actually just English learners from the American Center in Yangon where Win Maw had gone to study. Finally, all of the prosecution witnesses that have been listed for the court are police except for two civilians, as required by law at the time of search, who were brought by the police for that purpose and are not independent.

In light of this patent lack of evidence I urge that the court close the case and release the accused immediately. In the event that the court itself fails to do so I urge the Supreme Court of Myanmar to give directions to this effect in accordance with its powers as established by the new Constitution of Myanmar 2008.

With regards to the court process itself I also wish to express my dissatisfaction that this and other cases like it are being heard behind closed doors, in this case within the prison itself, which is in violation of the Judiciary Law 2000, section 2(e), and call for any such trials, irrespective of other factors, to be conducted in open court.

I likewise call for the Attorney General to review the case and instruct the concerned law office to withdraw the case from the court as per section 4(b) of the Attorney General Law 2001, and for the Minister of Home Affairs and Director General of Police also to look into the matter both with a view to seeing the case withdrawn and also in order to review the work of their subordinates.

Finally, I take this opportunity to remind the Government of Myanmar of the need to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross access to places of detention and not least of all, access to those persons and forcibly disrobed monks and nuns who have been held in violation of criminal procedure and without charge or trial since the events of last September.

Yours sincerely


1. Maj-Gen. Maung Oo
Minister for Home Affairs
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663
Fax: +95 67 412 439

2. Lt-Gen. Thein Sein
Prime Minister
c/o Ministry of Defence
Tel: + 95 1 372 681
Fax: + 95 1 652 624

3. U Aung Toe
Chief Justice
Office of the Supreme Court
Office No. 24
Tel: + 95 67 404 080/ 071/ 078/ 067 or + 95 1 372 145
Fax: + 95 67 404 059

4. U Aye Maung
Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
Office No. 25
Tel: +95 67 404 088/ 090/ 092/ 094/ 097
Fax: +95 67 404 146/ 106

5. Brig-Gen. Khin Yi
Director General
Myanmar Police Force
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663
Fax: +951 549 663 / 549 208

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (ua@ahrchk.org)