By HTUN KHAING | FRONTIER
HSIPAW, Shan State — Proceedings have finally begun against three journalists arrested by the military more than a month ago, following numerous procedural delays and international attention over the trio’s case.
Ko Lawi Weng of The Irrawaddy, along with U Aye Naing and Ko Pyae Phone Aung of DVB, who are each facing a possible three year sentence under the Unlawful Associations Act, appeared to be in good spirits as a police van brought them to Hsipaw court on Friday morning.
During a three hour session, presiding judge U Kyaw Thu Moe heard testimony from a military officer outlining details of the trio’s arrest, one of nine witnesses to appear for the prosecution.
Outside the court, lawyer U Maung Maung Win, who is acting on behalf of the DVB reporters, said officials at Hsipaw prison had deliberately withheld news on the trio’s widely-reported case while they had been in custody.
“When they got newspapers in prison, the pages with articles about their case had been removed,” he said. “Not only from private newspapers but also state-owned papers. They really want to read what is happening about their case.”
Along with four other men, the three reporters were detained by soldiers on June 26 while returning from Namhsan Township, after covering an anti-drug event organised by the Ta’ang National Liberation Army.
After being held at a military camp for two days, they were transferred into police custody at Hsipaw.
Six of those arrested are being tried for meeting with the armed group, which has not been formally recognised under the auspices of the government’s peace process.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Lawi Weng said that other government officials had also been at the TNLA event.
“I saw many government staff there, including nurses and school teachers. It was even held at a playground of a government school,” he said.
The next hearing in the case will be held on August 4.