Suu Kyi Defends Court Decision To Jail Reuters Reporters

 

Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi arrives for a meeting with Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang (not pictured) at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi on September 13, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / KHAM

 

 

 

 

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday robustly defended the jailing of two Reuters journalists who were reporting on the Rohingya crisis, as she hit back at global criticism of a trial widely seen as an attempt to muzzle the free press.

The country’s de facto leader acknowledged that the brutal crackdown on the Muslim minority — which the United Nations has cast as “genocide” — could have been “handled better”, but insisted the two reporters had been treated fairly.

“They were not jailed because they were journalists” but because “the court has decided that they had broken the Official Secrets Act”, she said.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were each imprisoned for seven years last week for breaching the country’s hardline Official Secrets Act while reporting on atrocities committed during the military crackdown in Rakhine state.

Suu Kyi, once garlanded as a global rights champion, has come under intense pressure to use her moral authority inside Myanmar to defend the pair.

Challenging critics of the verdict — including the UN, rights groups who once lionized her, and the US Vice President — to “point out” where there has been a miscarriage of justice, Suu Kyi said the case upheld the rule of law.

“The case was held in open court… I don’t think anybody has bothered to read the summary of the judge,” she said during a discussion at the World Economic Forum, adding the pair still had the right to appeal.

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

“Open courts are designed to shed light on the justice process,” said Sean Bain of the International Commission of Jurists.

“Sadly in this case we’ve seen both institutional and individual failings to hold up the principles of rule of law and human rights.”

Army-led “clearance operations” that started last August drove 700,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh, carrying with them widespread accounts of atrocities — rape, murder, and arson — by Myanmar police and troops.

The ferocity of that crackdown has thrust Myanmar into a firestorm of criticism as Western goodwill evaporates towards a country ruled by a ruthless junta until 2015.

A UN fact-finding panel has called for Myanmar army chief Min Aung Hlaing and several other top generals to be prosecuted for genocide.

The International Criminal Court has said it has jurisdiction to open an investigation, even though Myanmar is not a member of the tribunal.

Suu Kyi, who has bristled at foreign criticism of her country, on Thursday softened her defense of the crackdown against “terrorists” from the Muslim minority.

“There are of course ways (in) which, in hindsight, the situation could have been handled better,” she said.

– War on journalism –

But she also appeared to turn responsibility onto neighboring Bangladesh for failing to start the repatriation of the nearly one million-strong Rohingya refugee community to Myanmar.

Bangladesh “was not ready” to start repatriation of the Rohingya in January as agreed under a deal between the two countries, she said.

Yet Myanmar does not want its Rohingya, denying them citizenship while the Buddhist-majority public falsely labels them “Bengali” interlopers.

Rohingya refugees refuse to return to Myanmar without guarantees of safety, restitution for lost lands and citizenship.

The jailing of the Reuters reporters has sent a chill through Myanmar’s nascent media scene.

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 last year.

This week, the UN rights office accused Myanmar of “waging a campaign against journalists”.

It decried the use of the courts and the law by the “government and military in what constitutes a political campaign against independent journalism”.

A UN panel is set to release the second part of its report into the atrocities over the coming days.

Myanmar will come under the international spotlight again on September 25 when the UN General Assembly convenes in New York.

Local media have reported that Suu Kyi will not be attending the New York meeting.

AFP

Rohingya Crisis: Oxford College Removes Portrait Of Myanmar Leader

 

Supporters hold posters and images of Aung San Suu Kyi on September 24, 2017 during a rally in support to the Myanmar leader in front of City Hall in Yangon. PHOTO: AFP

The Oxford University college where Aung San Suu Kyi studied said on Saturday that it had taken down a portrait of the Myanmar leader, a decision that follows widespread criticism of her over the Rohingya crisis.

The portrait, which was on display in the main entrance of St Hugh’s College, has been placed in storage and was replaced on Thursday with a new painting gifted by Japanese artist Yoshihiro Takada.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi studied at St Hugh’s, graduating in philosophy, politics and economics in 1967 before completing a masters in politics in 1968.

“We received a new painting earlier this month which will be exhibited at the main entrance for a period,” the college said in a statement.

“The painting of Aung San Suu Kyi has meanwhile been moved to a secure location.”

The university did not say whether the removal was linked to the ongoing crisis in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State.

Communal violence has torn through the state since Muslim minority Rohingya militants staged deadly attacks on police posts on August 25.

An army-led fightback has left scores dead and sent around half a million Rohingya fleeing the mainly Buddhist country into neighbouring Bangladesh.

The United Nations describes the situation as “ethnic cleansing”.

The removal of the 1997 portrait by the Chinese artist Chen Yanning comes a few days before new students arrive at the college to start their courses.

The portrait belonged to Suu Kyi’s husband, the Oxford academic Michael Aris, and was bequeathed to the college after his death in 1999.

St Hugh’s also counts British Prime Minister Theresa May among its alumni.

AFP

Suu Kyi To Run Myanmar Foreign Ministry

Suu KyiAung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy (NLD) won historic elections in Myanmar, is to take a formal role in the new cabinet.

The constitution bars Ms Suu Kyi from the presidency because her two sons are British citizens, as was her late husband. She had been widely expected not to take a ministry.

She had pledged to circumvent the ban by running the country through a proxy president, and last week the parliament nominated Suu Kyi’s confidant, Htin Kyaw, for the top job.

Until the cabinet nominations were read out to parliament by the speaker on Tuesday, it had been unclear whether Suu Kyi would join the executive or would seek to guide the government from outside as the leader of the ruling party.

The constitution also bars serving ministers from political party activities or sitting in parliament as lawmakers.

“It doesn’t matter how many ministries she takes, as she will run the whole government anyway,” said Win Htein, a senior NLD politician close to Suu Kyi.

The 18-member cabinet list submitted by President-elect Htin Kyaw to parliament did not specify the portfolios each minister would hold.

But a separate list obtained by Reuters from sources in parliament showed Nobel peace prize laureate Suu Kyi’s name next to four ministries: minister of the president’s office, foreign affairs, electric power and energy, and education.

It was unclear whether Suu Kyi would run all four departments when the new government takes office next month. A senior NLD member told Reuters her name was put forward for several ministries after some prospective candidates declined to join the cabinet at the last minute.

Holding the post of foreign minister would give Suu Kyi a seat on the National Defence and Security Council, an important presidential advisory group dominated by the still-powerful military.

“Aung San Suu Kyi will entrust the party in parliament in the hands of other NLD elders, as expected, and assume a role within the cabinet,” said Nyantha Maw Lin, Managing Director at political consultancy, Vriens & Partners in Yangon.

“She understands that ultimately, power lies with the executive, which holds the reins on the peace process, foreign policy, the economy, and most importantly, relations with the military.”

The list of proposed ministers also included some former senior government officials, as well as a member of the army-linked Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), reflecting Suu Kyi’s stated desire to form an inclusive government.