Arrested Reuters journalists were ‘caught in a trap’, says U Win Htein

By SEAN GLEESON & KYAW LIN HTOON | FRONTIER

YANGON — Senior National League for Democracy figure U Win Htein has spoken out on the detention of two Reuters journalists, speculating that the pair had been “caught in a trap” by the military.

Ko Wa Lone, 31, and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, were arrested in Yangon on the evening of December 12 after meeting with two officers from the Taukkyan Police Station in northern Yangon. The pair have been charged under Myanmar’s colonial era Official Secrets Act for possession of classified documents, and face a potential 14-year prison term.

“This detaining is bad,” the NLD luminary told reporters in Nay Pyi Taw on Monday. “I think they were caught in a trap … just a few minutes after leaving their dinner, they were arrested.”

Suggesting that the reporters were “stupid” for not taking more precautions to conceal the documents, Win Htein also appeared to sympathise with calls for their release.

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“For them, the detained journalists, I’m sad,” he said. “To take them out [of detention], there would need to be international pressure and skillful lawyers.”

Reuters revealed today that President U Htin Kyaw has signed off on the charges against the duo.

Family, friends and colleagues of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have not been able to make contact with the pair since their arrest, and their exact location remains unclear.

The International Commission of Jurists has called on authorities to allow access to the reporters.

“Fair trial rights violations seriously undermine the rule of law in Myanmar. All detainees must be allowed prompt access to a lawyer and to family members,” Frederick Rawski, the ICJ’s Asia-Pacific regional director, said Monday. “Authorities are bound to respect these rights in line with Myanmar law and the state’s international law obligations.”

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