Global Freedom of Expression

Prosecutor v. Thu Zaw Kyi Win and Naing Zaw Kyi Win

Closed Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Public Assembly
  • Date of Decision
    December 17, 2015
  • Outcome
  • Case Number
  • Region & Country
    Myanmar, Asia and Asia Pacific
  • Judicial Body
    First Instance Court
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law
  • Themes
    Freedom of Association and Assembly / Protests

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

Two brothers, Thu Zaw Kyi Win and Naing Zaw Kyi Win, were sentenced to two years in prison on December 17, 2015, after being found guilty of supporting the labor strikes in Rangoon, Myanmar. There is no published judicial reasoning available for this decision. However, both were released on April 17, 2016 due to Presidential amnesty.

Global FoE could not identify official legal and government records on the case and information on the case was derived from secondary sources. Global FoE notes that media outlets may not provide complete information about this case. Additional information regarding legal matters will be updated as an official source becomes available.


Thu Zaw Kyi Win and Naing Zaw Kyi Win were arrested and detained after allegedly providing support to the striking garment workers from factories in the Shwepyithar Industrial Zone in Rangoon, Myanmar. Naing Zaw Kyi Win was arrested on February 24, 2015, by police officers in plainclothes in the house of a factory worker, while Thu Zaw Kyi Win was arrested on March 4, 2015 while accompanying workers to protest at the Sule Pagoda, next to Rangoon’s City Hall.

Both men were charged under Article 505 (b) of the Burmese Penal Code which states: “Whoever makes, publishes, or circulates any statement, rumour or report with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquility, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”

The court in Yankin Township ruled on December 17, 2015. The court sentenced each of the defendants to two years in prison with hard labor. The period of detention while the two men were awaiting the verdict was to be deducted from their term of imprisonment.

On April 17, 2016, Thu Zaw Kyi Win and Naing Zaw Kyi Win were released along with 83 other prisoners after being granted Presidential amnesty.

Decision Overview

Article 505 (b) is known to be used to suppress freedom of expression. The Criminal Code itself is also controversial because it is from the British colonial era. The text of the law, which is very broad, has been interpreted to silence human rights defenders and activists. The article is also a non-bailable offense, and any individual who is accused under this article will be taken into custody. The exemptions are that the individual must be below 16 years of age, female, or sick and infirm, and not guilty of an offence punishable with death and life sentence according to the Article 497 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The decision here was thought to be politically motivated. Even though Myanmar guarantees the freedom of expression in Article 354 of its Constitution, there are some words in the text that can be interpreted to restrict such rights.  Moreover, Myanmar is not a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), so international accountability for the suppression of the freedom of expression is limited.

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Contracts Expression

The case contracts expression because the defendants were sentenced to prison terms as a result of exercising their right to freedom of expression.

Global Perspective

Quick Info

Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

Related International and/or regional laws

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Myan., Article 505 (b) of the Penal Code

Other national standards, law or jurisprudence

Case Significance

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Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.

Additional Citations:

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