Myanmar minister to visit Rohingya camps as Bangladesh seeks refugees' return

Lynn Cook
April 11, 2018

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 a year ago.

The murders were part of a larger army crackdown on the Rohingya, beset by allegations of murder, rape, arson and looting, unleashed in response to Rohingya militant attacks on security forces in late August.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in December.

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 a year ago in Inn Din village in northern Rakhine.

The Myanmar government has acknowledged the murders, but it has repeatedly denied global accusations of ethnic cleansing and genocide against the Rohingya. 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.

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The two reporters have told relatives they were arrested nearly immediately after being handed some rolled up papers at a restaurant in northern Yangon by two policemen they had not met before, having been invited to meet the officers for dinner.

The journalists had been working on a Reuters investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state's Inn Din village during an army crackdown in 2017.

The army has claimed the Rohingya men were terrorists, but has not presented any evidence to back up the claim.

Wa Lone said, "Our case was not dismissed today". When convicted they can end up to 14 years.

The military says the soldiers involved in the murders have been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

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At that same prior hearing, lead prosecutor Kyaw Min Aung countered that the defendants had been found in possession of secret government documents, that by obtaining them the journalists posed a threat to state security and the national interest, and that as such the defence's motion for a dismissal should be rejected.

"We are deeply disappointed with the court's decision", said Stephen J. Adler, Reuters' president and editor-in-chief.

Family members of the reporters were in tears after the ruling, but Wa Lone, who turned 32 on Wednesday and was brought cake by his friends, still expressed optimism.

"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".

"His country may want to show the global leaders that they are honest to repatriate".

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