Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Suu Kyi’s silence on reporters defended



Suu Kyi’s silence on reporters defended

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Aung San Suu Kyi delivers an address before Yangon University students on August 28. AFp

Suu Kyi’s silence on reporters defended

A GLOBAL outcry over the jailing of two Reuters journalists has been met with silence from Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a stony response that an official defended on Tuesday as a reluctance to criticise the judiciary.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were arrested while reporting on atrocities committed during the bloody expulsion by the military of some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims last year.

A Yangon court on Monday found them guilty under the Official Secrets Act and handed them each seven years in prison, sparking outrage from the UN, EU and US as well as media and rights groups.

Suu Kyi was herself subjected to house arrest for some 15 years, relying on foreign media to highlight her plight.

A UN report last week accused her of failing to use her moral authority to stem the violence last year and called for the generals to be prosecuted for “genocide”.

‘Sad day for Myanmar’

Her silence on this case and the verdict – the sternest test in recent years to free speech in the country – has shredded her reputation even further.

But Aung Hla Tun, a former Reuters journalist who now works for the government as deputy Minister of Information, defended the Nobel Laureate’s reticence.

“Criticising the judicial system would be tantamount to contempt of court,” he told AFP. “I don’t think she will do it.”

A whistleblowing policeman had corroborated the defence argument that the reporters had been entrapped by police, who handed them documents over dinner shortly before their arrest.

But the judge chose to ignore the testimony.

Lawyers for the pair will appeal the verdict although the lengthy process could take months, if not years.

The country’s president, a close ally of Suu Kyi, could also pardon the reporters but experts say any immediate intervention is unlikely.

In April 8,500 people were set free in an amnesty, including 36 deemed to be political prisoners but there were still some 200 others, including the two Reuters journalists, facing trials linked to political activities.

Erstwhile Suu Kyi advocates overseas have been left dismayed by her attitude to the journalists’ ordeal so far.

Her one public reference to the Reuters journalists during the court case – telling Japanese broadcaster NHK that the pair had broken the Official Secrets Act – was criticised by rights groups for potentially prejudicing the verdict.

US diplomat Bill Richardson, a former confidant and member of her advisory board on the Rohingya crisis, alleged she also denounced the two reporters as traitors during a heated exchange at the beginning of the year.

While the case horrified the West, domestically it garnered little public attention despite its implications for press freedom.

Response to the jailing was mixed.

State-backed media barely mentioned the verdict Tuesday although other papers stood in solidarity with the reporters.

MOST VIEWED

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro

  • ACLEDA, WU to enable global money transfers

    Cambodia's largest commercial bank by total assets ACLEDA Bank Plc and global money transfer firm Western Union (WU) have partnered to offer customers cross-border money transfers to 200 countries via “ACLEDA mobile” app. In Channy, president and group managing director of ACLEDA, said the June 22 agreement

  • Num banh chok pizza a new fusion hit

    Num banh chok is a traditional fish curry with fermented rice noodles, prahok fish paste, kroeung paste, flowering plants and seasonal vegetables that is arguably a strong contender for “national dish” status in Cambodia and typically served for breakfast or eaten as an afternoon snack.

  • Cambodia detects new Covid cases after 52 days: PM

    After 52 days of zero new Covid-19 cases, Cambodia has now detected new infections, according to Prime Minister Hun Sen. In his special audio address to the nation late on June 28, Hun Sen said the new cases were detected on people who had undergone PCR tests

  • Higher education leaders tour US

    With support from the US Department of State, 10 Cambodian leaders in higher education participated in the 10-day International Visitors Leadership Programme (IVLP) in three US states from June 19 to July 1. They included nine university rectors and directors of higher education institutions who are members of