See More on Facebook

Analysis

Myanmar reporters jailed for breaching official secrets act

Two Myanmar journalists were jailed for seven years each on Monday (Sept 3) for breaching the country’s official secrets act.


Written by

Updated: September 3, 2018

The decision by the courts was decried by critics as an attempt to punish them for exposing a massacre of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.

The reporters, Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were working for Reuters when they were arrested in December last year (2017) after being invited by policemen to meet at a restaurant in Yangon. The duo say they were framed.

The crime carries a maximum sentence of 14 years jail.

“I have no feeling. I believe in justice and democracy,” Wa Lone said after the verdict.

Just before they were arrested, the pair had been investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya in Inn Din village that took place amid a larger military crackdown in the Rakhine state. In a space of mere weeks from August last year (2017), some 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh – and remain there today in overcrowded camps.

While the military has said it was responding to a terrorist attack and largely denies any wrongdoing, human rights groups say the gang rapes, extra-judicial killings and systematic arson of Rohingya villages point more to ethnic cleansing.\\

The Rohingya Muslims are seen as illegal immigrants in impoverished Rakhine state and draw little sympathy elsewhere in Buddhist majority Myanmar.

Naypyidaw says it is ready to receive returnees, but there have been no official repatriations from Bangladesh so far amid concern that conditions in Myanmar remain inhospitable. In May (2018), President Win Myint pardoned 58 Rohingya returnees who were arrested after they tried to cross back into Myanmar on their own. According to a report published last week (Aug 21) by Human Rights Watch, at least six such Rohingya “returnees” later fled back to Bangladesh out of fears for their safety.

Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi chose to focus on terrorism when addressing the topic of Rohingya at a speech in Singapore last month (Aug 21).

“The danger of terrorist activities, which was the initial cause of events leading to the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine, remains real and present today,” she said. “Unless this security challenge is addressed, the risk of inter-communal violence will remain.”

The Rakhine crisis has damaged Ms Suu Kyi’s and Myanmar’s international standing at a time when the fledgling civilian government is struggling to work around a military-crafted Constitution which grants the military control over the key ministries overseeing defence, home affairs and border affairs.

Military commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing is not among the Myanmar military and police officials sanctioned by the United States, European Union and Canada for atrocities against the Rohingya.

But a United Nations fact-finding report released last week recommended that the commander-in-chief, together with other senior military officials, be investigated for genocide, and even alleged that the civilian authorities had contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes “through their acts and omissions”.

In June (2018), the UN refugee and development agencies inked a memorandum of understanding with the Myanmar government to help make ground conditions in Rakhine state conducive for a sustainable, voluntary repatriation.

Two months later, the two UN agencies issued a statement urging the Myanmar government to make “tangible progress”, noting it was still waiting for travel authorisation that would allow international staff to be based in Maungdaw in northern Rakhine state and work effectively around the region.

Independent media access remains heavily restricted in northern Rakhine state even though foreign journalists are now being taken on chaperoned trips to selected parts of the ravaged area.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


About the Author: The Straits Times is Singapore's top-selling newspaper.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Analysis

Is polarisation driven by Hyper Information Disorder Syndrome?

In a study of Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Poland, Turkey and the US, writes ANDREW SHENG, scientists attribute populism to the rise of decisive leaders who push nationalism, demonise opponents and stir up issues that further divide societies. BANGKOK – Mass protests seem to be breaking out all over the place, from Hong Kong to Santiago, Tehran, Bolivia, Catalonia, Ecuador, France and Iraq to Lebanon.  The root causes of these protests have many local reasons, but there are common themes, such as inequality, corruption, incompetent governments, rural-urban migration, demography, anger, social media and demand for change. But underlying all these protests is the growing polarization of societies, increasingly manifested in viol


By Asia News Network
December 9, 2019

Analysis

Trump warns N Korea could lose ‘everything’ with hostile acts

Clear warning to Kim regime to refrain from provocations such as nuclear and missile tests. WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump said Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could lose “everything” if he acts in a hostile manner, sending a clear warning to the regime to refrain from provocations such as nuclear and missile tests. Trump sent the tweet as the two countries have exchanged heated rhetoric over their stalled negotiations on dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. Earlier Sunday, North Korea said it had conducted an unexplained “very important test” at its Dongchang-ri satellite launching site, prompting speculation of preparations for a new long-range missile test. But the US president also signaled his commitment to continuing diplomacy with Kim, saying the North Korean leader is “too smart” to be rash. “Kim


By The Korea Herald
December 9, 2019

Analysis

Rohingya Crisis Fallout

Transparency International Bangladesh has painted a grim outlook for the crisis. Bangladesh faces long-term financial, political and security challenges as Rohingya repatriation may not happen anytime soon, said Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman. The fund from the international community for nearly one million Rohingyas may not sustain as no strong international initiative has been taken to oblige Myanmar for creating a conducive environment for the refugees to return soon, he said. “As a result, Bangladesh’s socio-economic instability will grow. There are risks of security at local and national levels. The crisis also creates political and diplomatic challenges for the government,” Iftekharuzzaman said. It also involves the risks of growing extremism as the people who face violence are more likely to become violent, he said at a press confere


By Daily Star
December 6, 2019

Analysis

North Korea has not given up hope for nuclear talks with US yet

Kim has mentioned a possibility of a ‘Christmas’ gift. Tensions between the US and North Korea have heightened as the two sides exchanged threats and bellicose rhetoric of possible military actions if necessary, amid their stalled nuclear talks. But they appear to have no intention to wind up their diplomacy at least for the next few weeks, experts said. On Wednesday, Heino Klinck, US deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, said the US has been refraining from responding to every single one of North On Wednesday, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia Heino Klinck said the


By The Korea Herald
December 6, 2019

Analysis

Pyongyang to hold party meeting ahead of year-end deadline

Kim Jong-un rides up Paektusan again, highlights self-reliance and revolutionary spirit. North Korea will hold a plenary meeting around the end of December to decide on “crucial issues,” its state-run news agency said Wednesday. On the same day, the Korean Central News Agency reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un rode up Paektusan on a white horse accompanied by military commanders, raising speculation that the communist regime may take more provocative military actions as the year-end deadline it set for denuclearization talks with the US quickly approaches. North Korea’s Workers’ Party of Korea announced Tuesday that the 5th Plenary Meeting of the 7th Central Committee of the WPK would convene around the end of December, Korea Central News Agency reported, “in order to discuss and decide on crucial issues in line with the needs of the development of the Korean revolution and the chan


By The Korea Herald
December 5, 2019

Analysis

Typhoon Tisoy touches down in the Philippines

The typhoon may affect the Southeast Asian games which is currently underway. Typhoon Tisoy slightly weakened early Tuesday morning as it bears down on Burias Island but it remains strong and destructive, the weather bureau reported. In its 5 a.m. Severe Weather Bulletin, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said that Tisoy’s eyewall is currently bringing violent winds and intense rainfall over Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, and Masbate. Its eyewall is also expected to affect Southern Quezon, Romblon, and Marinduque in the next three hours. Frequent to continuous heavy to intense (with isolated torrential) rains will be experienced in the Bicol Region, Romblon, Marinduque, Mindoro Provinces, Calabarzon, Metro Manila, Bataan, Pampanga and Bulacan between Tuesday early morning and late afternoon, Pagasa said. Occasional to frequent heavy


By Philippine Daily Inquirer
December 3, 2019