Claimant awarded £30,000 damages in Myanmar ‘informer’ libel action

Retired doctor wins defamation action over Facebook allegation of being an informer for the military dictatorship in Myanmar

The Claimant has succeeded in a libel case concerning an allegation that he acted as an informer for the military junta in Myanmar.

A user comment on a Burmese language Facebook news site had alleged that the Claimant, Dr Than Wai – a retired ophthalmologist, originally from Myanmar – was a dalan, an informer for Myanmar’s ruling military administration.  Dr Wai vehemently denied the allegation.

Following the issue in December 2022 of a claim in defamation, and judgment in default being ordered in February 2023, the Defendant – Dr Htay Kywe, a former General Practitioner, also originally from Myanmar – applied to set aside default judgment.  That application was refused: the Defendant could not show a real prospect of successfully defending the claim; prospective defences of truth, honest opinion and publication in the public interest were held meritless.   Remedies were therefore determined.

Dr Wai was awarded £30,000 damages (the maximum sought) and an injunction.  In addition, an order under s.12 Defamation Act 2013 was made to compel the Defendant to publish a summary of the Court’s decision.

The meaning pleaded by Dr Wai, and held to be reasonable by Master Davison, was that the Claimant “clandestinely gathers information about individuals affiliated, or believed to be affiliated, with pro-democracy protest groups in Myanmar and discloses such information to the Tatmadaw [the Myanmar armed forces], in the knowledge that it will be used to assist the Tatmadaw to imprison, torture and murder those suspected of involvement with pro-democracy groups.

The allegation complained of was held to be self-evidently “very serious”.

The judgment can be downloaded from the ‘Files’ link below.

5RB’s John Stables acted for the Claimant, Dr Wai, instructed by Brett Wilson LLP.