HANOI, Sept 13 2018 : Myanmar government leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday said two jailed Reuters journalists can appeal their seven-year sentence, and that their jailing had nothing to do with freedom of expression.
Asked how she felt about jailing journalists as a democratic leader, Suu Kyi said: “They were not jailed because they were journalists, they were jailed because…the court has decided that they have broken the Official Secrets Act.”
She made her comments at the World Economic Forum on ASEAN in Hanoi in response to a question from the forum moderator who asked whether she felt comfortable about the reporters being jailed.
The journalists, Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were found guilty on official secrets charges and sentenced earlier this month in a landmark case seen as a test of progress toward democracy in Myanmar.
“I wonder whether very many people have actually read the summary of the judgment which had nothing to do with freedom of expression at all, it had to do with an Official Secrets Act,” Suu Kyi said.
“If we believe in the rule of law, they have every right to appeal the judgment and to point out why the judgment was wrong.”
When asked to comment on Pence’s call to release the journalists, Suu Kyi responded by asking if the critics felt there had been a miscarriage of justice.
“The case has been held in open court and all the hearings have been open to everybody who wished to go and attend them and if anybody feels there has been a miscarriage of justice I would like them to point it out,” she said.
Zaw Htay, spokesman for the office of Myanmar’s president, was not immediately available to comment on Suu Kyi’s remarks.
Earlier today, Suu Kyi at the same WEF session said in hindsight her government could have handled the situation in Rakhine state better.
“There are of course ways in which we, with hindsight, might think that the situation could have been handled better,” Suu Kyi said. “But we believe that for the sake of long-term stability and security we have to be fair to all sides…We cannot choose and pick who should be protected by the rule of law.”
Some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Rakhine after government troops led a brutal crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on 30 Myanmar police posts and a military base in August 2017.
Myanmar has denied allegations of atrocities, saying its military carried out justifiable actions against militants. – Reuters