Both the CEO and the chief editor of Eleven Media Group (EMG) have been summoned for questioning by Tamwe township police in Rangoon over an article alleging that regional Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein had received a US$100,000 wristwatch gifted by a wealthy individual who had recently won tender for a new urban development project.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday in the former Burmese capital, Rangoon Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein said that the regional government is filing a lawsuit against EMG’s CEO Than Htut Aung and chief editor Wai Phyo under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act for “online defamation”.
The motion comes after Eleven Media CEO Than Htut Aung wrote an editorial last week in which he lambasted the National League for Democracy-led government for its failings after a year in power, saying it had “failed to tackle corruption and crony capitalism.”
He continued: “Citizens have become disappointed with the close ties that some members of the NLD formed with crony capitalists.
“The newly elected NLD officials’ rosy relations with the corrupt officials from the previous bureaucracy are grave concerns for the Myanmar people.
“In social media, stories have circulated about a newly elected minister, making just [US]$2,500 a month, being seen wearing a $100,000 Patek Philippe watch.
“For many Myanmar people who make $2 a day, this is a source of great disbelief and resentment.”
The editorial piece went to accuse an unnamed property developer who had recently been released from jail on drugs charges as the individual who had given the similarly unnamed minister this “gift”.
But, at a press conference held last night, Phyo Min Thein claimed that the watch he believes is in question was a “more affordable Rolex watch bought by his wife, not a Patek Phillipe as described by Dr Than Tun Aung,” according to this morning’s state-run Global New Light of Myanmar.
Also yesterday, a press conference was held by property developer Maung Weik, who in 2008 was charged and convicted for his role in a drugs syndicate.
“Of the three contenders that won tender for the new urban project [in Twante], I am the only one who was released from jail after serving time for alleged drug use,” he told reporters. “So it should be clear to everyone who the [Eleven article] was referring to.
“I believe the report was unacceptable and a personal defamation, an act of bullying the weak,” he continued, before adding: “I have never given any minister a Patek Philippe watch as a gift, and I am ready to be testify at any trial regarding this matter. I would like to specifically clarify that I have never gifted the Rangoon regional chief minister a watch.”
Tamwe township police visited the EMG head office in Tamwe last night to serve the summons to Than Htut Aung and Wai Phyo.
In July 2015, DVB reported that the Eleven Media CEO had been attacked in broad daylight by unknown assailants using slingshots and metal nuts as he drove home from work.