Chiang Mai reporters boycott final day of UNFC conference

By NYAN HLAING LYNN | FRONTIER

NAY PYI TAW — Myanmar reporters in Thailand boycotted the closing day of the latest meeting of a key ethnic armed group bloc Monday, following discontent over restrictions on their coverage of discussions.

Tensions were apparent between conference participants and reporters all through the latest meeting of the United Nationalities Federal Council, held in Chiang Mai from June 20-26.

Ko Kyaw Kha, a senior reporter for The Irrawaddy, said reporters had decided to stay away from the closing day of the event after being frozen out of discussions with UNFC representatives.

“It was the personal decision of individual reporters getting news from the UNFC conference, not the agency they are working for,” he told Frontier. “It was done because the restrictions were so severe it affected our ability to report the news correctly.”

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Kyaw Kha added that UNFC delegates had been instructed not to discuss the outcomes of the latest conference to reporters, who were also ordered to stay away from the conference hall.

“We want to give the message that people are being deprived of information they should have,” he said.

Near the beginning of the conference, UNFC delegates had signalled their displeasure after media outlets reported that the Kachin Independence Organisation had submitted a letter formally resigning from the bloc.

These reports also claimed that four other groups — the Kachin National Organization, Zomi Reunited Organization, Kuki National Organization, and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army — had applied for UNFC membership.

After the reports were published, the Union government issued a statement saying it would cease negotiations with the UNFC if new members joined the bloc.

Radio Free America, Mizzima and The Irrawaddy all have correspondents based in Chiang Mai and it appears that reporters from all three outlets participated in the boycott.

Frontier could not reach UNFC representatives for comment on Monday.

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