A dentist who went viral on Facebook after exposing nationalist and military propaganda at a civil service training institute has been labelled a hero by the 7Day newspaper at a Yangon award ceremony.
Dr Soe Thura Zaw’s posts in November accusing lecturers of “brainwashing” government employees were shared thousands of times and threw light on ongoing civilian-military tensions at Myanmar's public institutions.
He was honoured alongside Moe Yan Naing, the former police captain who was jailed after he stunned a Yangon court last year by revealing that his colleagues had entrapped Reuters reporters Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone in a sting.
The awards recognise “ordinary people who have displayed extraordinary acts of courage” and those who have spent “long careers [making] personal sacrifices for the sake of others.”
‘Raise their voices’
Dr Soe Thura Zaw risked jeopardising his career when he accused lecturers at the political science department of a government training center in Pyin Oo Lwin of brainwashing trainees.
His posts led to accusations that the courses were a waste of public money and sparked calls for reform.
But they also landed in him trouble with the Union Civil Service Board, which launched an inquiry into his conduct and complained to his employers at the Ministry of Health.
In response, dozens of former trainees from the institute came forward to support the dentist, saying he had told the truth and revealing they had had similar experiences.
“I hope other people will follow my example and be encouraged to raise their voices whenever they come across what they believe is wrongdoing in government,” he told Myanmar Now at the award ceremony on Thursday.
Former police captain Moe Yan Naing was last month released from prison after serving a one-year sentence under the police disciplinary act.
He was expected to back up the official story that Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo had stolen state secrets when he testified in court in April last year.
Instead he broke ranks to confirm the defense’s argument that the pair had been “set up” when officers handed them rolled up documents and promptly arrested them.
The reporters were arrested while investigating the massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslims by security forces in Rakhine state’s Inn Din village in September 2017.
After testifying, Moe Yan Naing was expelled from the police and his family were evicted from police housing.
“Some officers from the CID (the Criminal Investigation Department) came to me the day before I testified as a witness and told me how to testify,” he told the audience after receiving his award.
“I told them that I had been to many court cases as a witness before, so I understood how to act. What they wanted me to testify was actually the opposite of what I did,” he added.
He told media last year that he told the truth because he wanted to show that police officers had dignity.
While his actions have earned him widespread praise, there are unanswered questions about the role Moe Yan Naing played in the events surrounding the massacre at Inn Din.
He was photographed along with other security personnel holding a rifle behind the 10 men and boys shortly before they were murdered, according to Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo’s report, which was published after they were arrested.
Other recipients at the awards included Ko Pyae Zarni Nway and his friends, who rescued residents trapped in a burning apartment in downtown Yangon.
Five low-ranking policemen who defied pressure from their superiors to investigate a timber racket were also honoured, along with five motorboat drivers who rescued people from a capsized boat at Indawgyi Lake.
Each recipient received one million kyat cash prize provided by the 7Day newspaper and U Zaw Zaw, chair of the Max Myanmar Group of Companies, as well as cash prizes from other businessmen.
Courtesy Myanmar Now