A Burmese OnlyFans model has been jailed for six years for posting nude photos to the adult subscription service.
Nang Mwe San, a model and former doctor, was convicted by a military court on Tuesday for “harming culture and dignity” by distributing “sexually explicit” photos and videos online for a fee, under Section 33 (A) of Myanmar's Electronics Transactions Law.
The ruling has been widely decried as politically motivated. The 34-year-old, who has previously participated in protests against the military junta, is believed to be the first person in the country—and potentially the first in the world—to ever be jailed for OnlyFans content.
Police arrested Nang Mwe San on Aug. 5 for allegedly tarnishing Burmese culture by “distributing suggestive photos and videos on a foreign website for a fee.” That evening, junta-controlled media announced that the military council had brought charges against both her and Burmese film actress Thinzar Wint Kyaw, who has similarly attended protests against the junta and published sexually provocative photos and videos on social media and Exantria, a creators platform similar to OnlyFans.
Nang Mwe San, who was living in a part of Myanmar under martial law when she was arrested, was denied a lawyer and subject to a closed trial in a military court. She is the first person to ever be prosecuted under Myanmar’s Electronic Communications Act, in a move that has drawn condemnation from legal experts and human rights activists.
Aung Kyaw Moe, a human rights adviser to Myanmar's National Unity Government—a shadow government of ousted civilian lawmakers formed in the wake of the military coup in February 2021—told VICE World News that her sentencing is a “gross human rights and women rights violation” which is “targeted and intentional.”
“[She] was the first celebrity to raise their voice and ask the world for justice for the Rohingya just after the coup,” he said. “[If] a model like Nang Mwe San is not free to exercise her rights to sell sexy photos, no other woman is free to exercise their rights. The international community must do more to hold the junta to account and protect women and girls in Myanmar.”
Nang Mwe San has uploaded a total of 347 images and 74 videos to the platform, and in December 2020 told VICE World News that she had earned more than $20,000 after just three months.
“Women in this country shouldn’t feel bad about what they are doing,” she said at the time. “Anything you are doing can also be a promotion for the country, then other people will notice your country.”
Speaking to Radio Free Asia (RFA), a veteran lawyer, who did not want to be named for security reasons, called the ruling “unjust,” claiming that the the Electronic Communications Act is too vague in its definition of what content can be considered “harmful” to the country’s culture and suggesting that the charges may just be a front for an ulterior agenda.
“This legal action is just an excuse and I’m sure there are other undisclosed reasons behind it,” he said.
Following the coup d'état of Feb. 1, 2021, when the Myanmar military ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government and seized total control of the country, Nang Mwe San took to the streets in protest with thousands of other Burmese citizens. In March 2021, after she posted comments to social media denouncing the junta’s harsh crackdown on protestors, Nang Mwe San was threatened with arrest for defamation against the state, and went into hiding. RFA reports that she signed a bond with authorities that permitted her to return to her home in Dagon Myothit (North), before being arrested again on Aug. 5.
Nang Mwe San’s sentencing is just one of several by the Burmese military regime this week. Also on Tuesday, Htet Htet Khine, a freelance producer for the BBC who was convicted on Sept. 15 of making contact with an outlawed pro-democracy radio programme, had her prison sentence increased by three years. She was previously sentenced to three years’ hard labour under laws that criminalise comments deemed to spread fear or “false news” about the military.
Then, on Thursday, Australian economist Sean Turnell was sentenced to three years in a Myanmar jail for allegedly violating the country's official state secrets law. Like Nang, Turnell—who was working in Myanmar as an advisor to Aung San Suu Kyi, but was arrested during the coup—was tried behind closed doors in a military court. Aung San Suu Kyi was convicted of the same crime and handed a further three years in prison, adding to the litany of politically-motivated convictions the ousted civilian leader has received since the coup.
More than 15,600 people, including lawmakers, activists, journalists, and celebrities, have been arrested since the military takeover, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Burmese advocacy group that monitors arrests.
Of those, at least 117 have been sentenced to death since the coup, with the junta carrying out the country’s first executions since the 1980s when it hanged two prominent political prisoners in July. More than 12,500 remain in detention.
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