Burma: Police officer admits Reuters reporters were ‘set-up’
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Burma: Police officer admits Reuters reporters were ‘set-up’

POLICE in Burma (Myanmar) deliberately “set-up” two Reuters journalists by handing them confidential government papers before arresting them, a witness for the prosecution testified on Friday.

Less than 24 hours after his shock revelation, the family of Police Captain Moe Naing was evicted from police housing in the capital Naypyidaw.

Moe Yan Naing gave the details of the hours leading up to the Dec 12 arrest of Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. He told the court that Police Brigadier General Tin Ko Ko, who led the internal probe, ordered the police to arrange a “set-up” to ensnare the journalists. The two are facing trial for violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, a charge that carries a 14-year prison sentence.

SEE ALSO: Burma: UN, Britain call for immediate release of Reuters journalists

At the time of their arrest, the reporters had been working on a Reuters investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in a village in western Burma’s Rakhine state. The killings happened during an army crackdown that United Nations agencies say has sent nearly 700,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh.

According to Moe Yan Naing’s testimony, the General instructed Police Lance Corporal Naing Lin to arrange a meeting with Wa Lone that night and to hand over “secret documents” from paramilitary 8th Security Police Battalion, of which Moe Yan Naing was a member. Police were then ordered to arrest Wa Lone as he departed the restaurant where the meeting took place.

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Reuters journalist Wa Lone arrives at the court in Yangon, Myanmar January 10, 2018. Source: Reuters

“Police Brigadier General Tin Ko Ko told the police members, ‘if you don’t get Wa Lone, you will go to jail’,” said Moe Yan Naing. He told the court he witnessed the exchange.

Moe Yan Naing said the police chief violated police ethics and “disgraced the union government and made the union government misunderstood by the international community.”

Moe Yan Naing said he had been under arrest since the night of Dec 12 and had been told to testify on Friday as a prosecution witness.

SEE ALSO: Amal Clooney steps in to defend Burmese journalists on trial

On Saturday, the family of Moe Yan Naing were evicted from their home and forced to take shelter in an apartment belonging to the policeman’s brother, the brother said.

“I got a phone call at 7 am. A police second lieutenant who I’m familiar with said, ‘sister you need to move out from the quarters,'” Moe Yan Naing’s unemployed wife Tu Tu, 42, told local media group the Irrawaddy.

“He said ‘you need to move out immediately.’ I said ‘is that so?’ and I become speechless. I didn’t know what to say,” she said in a video clip carried on the Irrawaddy’s Facebook page.

“We are staff family. We don’t have a house yet. Where am I supposed to move with all these items?”

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Burma journalists take part in a demonstration demanding the release of detained Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, in Yangon, Burma February 16, 2018. Source: Reuters

Tu Tu said in the video clip she had not had any contact with her husband since he was arrested and appealed to Burma’s President Win Myint for help.

Protection Committee for Myanmar Journalists, a local free speech group, issued an appeal to gather funds for Moe Yan Naing’s family and gathered about 1.5 million Myanmar kyat (US$1,127), while Naypyidaw-based journalists gathered another 900,000 kyat – altogether about $1,800 – journalists involved told Reuters.

The journalists said the family has rejected the funds because it wanted to “protect the dignity” of Moe Yan Naing and not accept charity.

Additional reporting by Reuters.