A Myanmar court sentenced two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, for seven years after they exposed the human rights abuses by the Myanmar military on the Rohingya minority in the Rakhine state.

The judge claimed the two men “collected and obtained confidential documents.” Prosecutors insisted that the men had “intended to harm the state by obtaining secret documents for Reuters’ commercial benefit, which clashed with Myanmar’s national interest.”

From Reuters:

“The defendants … have breached Official Secrets Act section 3.1.c, and are sentenced to seven years,” the judge said, adding that the time served since they were detained on Dec. 12 would be taken into account. The defense can appeal the decision to a regional court and then the supreme court.

The verdict comes amid mounting pressure on the government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi over a security crackdown sparked by attacks by Rohingya Muslim insurgents on security forces in Rakhine State in west Myanmar in August 2017.

More than 700,000 stateless Rohingya Muslims have fled into Bangladesh since then, according to U.N. agencies.

Wa Lone declared that the two men know “they did nothing wrong” and he has “no fear” and still believes “in justice, democracy and freedom.”

Kyawq Soe Oo said: “What I want to say to the government is: you can put us in jail, but do not close the eyes and ears of the people.”

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo investigated a massacre that took place in the Inn Din village that killed 10 Rohingya men and boys. From The Wall Street Journal:

Their photos of the victims, who were tied together before being executed, prompted a rare admission of wrongdoing by Myanmar’s military, which has otherwise rejected claims that it violated human rights in what it calls an antiterrorism campaign.

Their ordeal began on Dec. 12, when police officials invited them for dinner at a restaurant in suburban Yangon. During their trial, the reporters told the court that Police Lance Cpl. Naing Lin and another officer handed them documents that were rolled up inside a newspaper, and that they were arrested as they left.

During the trial, Police Capt. Moe Yan Naing testified that a police general had given instructions to entrap the reporters. Lance Cpl. Naing Lin acknowledged meeting the reporters but denied giving them anything.

After they were arrested, the reporters were handcuffed, black hoods were placed over their heads and they were transferred to a site in northern Yangon. There they were kept handcuffed and prevented from sleeping during a marathon interrogation session that lasted several days, Mr. Kyaw Soe Oo said.

Kyaw Soe Oo claims that “interrogators ignored the documents that he and Mr. Wa Lone had been accused of obtaining and focused instead on their reporting.” Questioning finally came to an end after the authorities found the photos of those 10 males on their phones. That’s when “one of the officers barged into his cell and asked, ‘Why didn’t you tell us about this?'”

Reuters reported that a “police witness testified the restaurant meeting was a set-up to entrap the journalists to block or punish them for their reporting of a mass killing of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine.”

I’ve been trying to document the genocide of the Rohingya people in Myanmar as officials have tried to deny what they’re doing and human rights darling Aung San Suu Kyi remains as silent as she can.

A United Nations report in August demanded that Myanmar generals face a trial for genocide and blamed de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi. From Reuters:

The U.N. investigators blamed Myanmar’s de facto civilian leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, for failing to use her “moral authority” to protect civilians. Her government “contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes” by letting hate speech thrive, destroying documents and failing to shield minorities from crimes against humanity and war crimes.

“Our findings are grim,” panel chairman Marzuki Darusman told a news conference on Monday. “We believe that establishing the facts is the first stepping stone towards change.”Contacted by phone, Myanmar military spokesman Major General Tun Tun Nyi said he could not immediately comment. Zaw Htay, spokesman for Suu Kyi’s government, could not immediately be reached for comment. Reuters was also unable to contact the six generals named in the report. The Myanmar government was sent an advance copy of the U.N. report in line with standard practice.

The reports includes Brigadier-General Aung Aung, who commands the 33rd Light Infantry Division. That division “oversaw operations in the coastal village of Inn Din where 10 Rohingya captive boys and men were killed,” the massacre the two Reuters journalists investigated.

The UN described the military’s action on the Rohingya minority as “grossly disproportionate to actual security threats.” The panel said the crimes that took place “and the manner in which they were perpetrated, are similar in nature, gravity and scope to those that have allowed genocidal intent to be established in other contexts.”

Reuters continued:

The United Nations defines genocide as acts meant to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group in whole or in part. Such a designation is rare, but has been used in countries including Bosnia, Rwanda and Sudan.

The investigators documented rapes, sexual slavery and abductions, including of children, said panel member Radhika Coomeraswamy.

“The scale, brutality and systematic nature of rape and (sexual) violence indicate that they are part of deliberate strategy to intimidate, terrorize or punish the civilian population. They are used as a tactic of war,” she said.

Rohingya have faced decades of oppression in Myanmar and when it was called Burma.


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