By STEVE TICKNER | FRONTIER
NAY PYI TAW – Two foreign journalists and their interpreter and driver have been sentenced to two months’ jail for trying to fly a drone near the Union Hluttaw in Nay Pyi Taw last month.
Malaysian Ms Mok Choy Lin, Singaporean Mr Lau Hon Meng, their interpreter Ko Aung Naing Soe, a photo-journalist, and driver, U Hla Tin, were sentenced at the capital’s Zayathiri Township court on November 10.
They had pleaded guilty to breaching the 1934 Aircraft Act, for which the maximum penalty is three months’ imprisonment.
The journalists were working on a documentary for the Turkish state broadcaster, TRT, when they were arrested in Nay Pyi Taw on October 26.
Police initially said they were being investigated for breaching the Export and Import Law, which carries a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment.
Lawyer U Khin Maung Zaw, who is representing Aung Naing Soe and Hla Tin, told reporters outside the court that the four only became aware they were being charged under the Aircraft Act when they arrived at the hearing.
The defendants had pleaded guilty because they expected to be fined and were shocked when they received jail sentences, Khin Maung Zaw said. The lawyer said the court hearing was the first opportunity to meet his clients since their arrest.
The four, who are being held at Yamethin Prison, about 90 kilometres north of Nay Pyi Taw, are due to return to Zayathiri Township court on November 16 to learn if they will face an extra charge under the Export and Import Law.
Speaking to reporters outside the court before the November 10 hearing, Mok said the legal process had lacked transparency.
“We have no idea what is going on, and we are not allowed to speak to our family,” she said, according to Reuters .
“And the rules and procedures are not explained to us. We were asked to sign statements that are completely in Burmese that we cannot understand,” Mok said.