Saturday, 17 November, 2018

Aung San Suu Kyi DEFENDS the jail sentence of two journalists

Visitors flocked to Myanmar after western sanctions were lifted 2012 Visitors flocked to Myanmar after western sanctions were lifted 2012 Credit GEtty
Patty Aguilar | 14 September, 2018, 06:02

But Western criticism has mounted of Suu Kyi's failure to speak out against military treatment of the Rohingya and of her attitude to the treatment of the journalists. Myanmar says the ICC has no jurisdiction as it is not a member of the court, but the court ruled it can rule on acts that partly took place in Bangladesh, a member state.

There has been global condemnation of the jailing of two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28 after they were found guilty of breaching a law on state secrets.

Yet, asked by former Norwegian foreign minister and WEF president Borge Brende whether current circumstances were very different from what she anticipated, Myanmar state counsellor Suu Kyi said no. "The case was held in open court".

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in December 2017 while carrying official documents which had just been given to them by police officers.

Her comments drew an indignant response from rights groups who have urged the Nobel Laureate to press for a presidential pardon for the reporters.

Of the Myanmar businesspeople in attendance at this year's World Economic Forum, some applauded Aung San Suu Kyi's comments, while others said it was a missed opportunity to promote investment opportunities.

Suu Kyi, a onetime democracy icon, sparked worldwide ire for standing by the armed forces.

Sean Bain, of the International Commission of Jurists, said: "Open courts are created to shed light on the justice process".

But she added that the two journalists "have every right to appeal the judgement and point out why the judgement is wrong if they consider it wrong".

Over 700,000 of the beleaguered minority have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since August previous year after a Rohingya militant attack in Rakhine state triggered a scorched earth military campaign there. A report issued two weeks ago by a specially appointed United Nations human rights team recommended prosecuting senior Myanmar commanders for genocide and other crimes.

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Haley said last month that findings of a yet-to-be released U.S. State Department investigation into Myanmar's Rohingya crisis were "consistent" with those of the United Nations report.

Ms Suu Kyi has been heavily criticised for failing to speak out about the crisis which has seen almost a million minority Muslims fleeing Myanmar into Bangladesh.

"There are of course ways in which with hindsight I think the situation could have been handled better", Aung San Suu Kyi said, responding to questions during a one-on-one discussion at the World Economic Forum's regional meeting in Hanoi. Amid the ongoing Rohingya crisis, she also declined to attend last year's General Assembly meeting.

"They were not jailed because they were journalists" but because "the court has decided that they had broken the Official Secrets Act", she said in her first direct comments on the issue.

Although the violence in Rakhine state has eased, Myanmar has to deal with its aftermath, especially the repatriation of the Muslim Rohingya who fled and the underlying causes of tension that makes them targets of discrimination and repression in overwhelmingly Buddhist Myanmar.

Many Rohingya are fearful of returning to Myanmar if their safety and rights can not be guaranteed.

The guilty verdicts of the two Reuters reporters on September 3 has sharply divided public opinion in Myanmar.

The pair denied the charges, insisting they were set up while exposing the extrajudicial killing of 10 Rohingya Muslims in the village of Inn Din in September past year.

This week, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights accused Myanmar of "waging a campaign against journalists".

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