Myanmar military members get prison after Rohingya slayings

Cheryl Sanders
April 11, 2018

Reuters reporters Wa Lone, 32 and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27 were arrested in December and accused of violating the country's Official Secrets Act for possessing material relating to security operations in conflict-hit Rakhine state.

Seven Burmese soldiers have been sentenced to ten years of hard labour for their role in the massacre of ten Rohingya Muslim men in the village of Inn Din in Burma's northwestern Rakhine state last September. They also pointed to what they said were inconsistencies in witness testimony and procedural mistakes made by the authorities during the arrest and subsequent searches.

The army in January made a rare admission that its soldiers had killed 10 Rohingya villagers who were captured and accused of being "terrorists" during insurgent attacks past year in Inn Din village in northern Rakhine.

The military's version of events is contradicted by accounts given to Reuters by Rakhine Buddhist and Rohingya Muslim witnesses published in the February story.

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Detained Reuters journalist Wa Lone (C) is escorted by police as he talks to media while leaving after his trial at the court house in Yangon, Myanmar, 11 April 2018.

"Those who killed people in the mass killing were given a sentence of 10 years".

Wa Lone's wife Pan Ei Mon said despite her husband urging her not to expect what would have been a dramatic court decision on Wednesday to release him and his colleague from custody, she had been optimistic.

One of his lawyers Than Zaw Aung also compared the cases.

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The journalists have denied any wrongdoing, but the court said there is "a proper reason" to keep them detained. Reuters announced last month that that prominent human rights lawyer Amal Clooney had joined the legal team.

The bloody incident in Inn Din village on 2 September is the only atrocity to which the military has admitted during its violent crackdown in northern Rakhine state, which has forced some 700,000 Rohingya to flee over the border into Bangladesh since August past year.

"We believe that there are solid grounds for the court to dismiss this matter and to release our journalists", Adler said in a statement.

"There has been an alarming erosion in press freedom in Myanmar where media workers continue to face threats, intimidation and even jail time simply for doing their jobs".

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On Wednesday, Kyaw Min Aung left the courtroom before reporters could ask him for comment on the ruling. Some reporters from local and global media brought birthday cake for Wa Lone, whose birthday was on Wedsday, who blew the candles out on the way to the courtroom. I want them to be released as soon as possible.

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