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

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases

  • AstraZeneca jabs touch down in Phnom Penh airport

    The first shipment of 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/SII vaccine which was provided through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility was delivered to Phnom Penh International Airport on March 2. The rest of the COVAX provided vaccines will arrive in Cambodia at a later date.