Myanmar's Suu Kyi defends jailing of two Reuters journalists

Myanmar's Suu Kyi defends jailing of two Reuters journalists

Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Thursday that two Reuters journalists jailed for investigating a massacre in Rakhine state were not convicted because they were journalists but because they broke the law. Aung San Suu Kyi said the reporters' crime was not journalism but having violated Myanmar's colonial-era Official Secrets Act, and she accused critics of not having "bothered to read" the summary of the judgment.

Suu Kyi said the case had "nothing to do with freedom of expression" and Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, "were not jailed for being journalists".

Suu Kyi, who took office in 2016, also did not attend last year's General Assembly meeting. "The case was held in open court".

The Nobel laureate's statement crushed any hope that a pardon was on the way for the journalists. He said last week the court was independent and followed due process.

But she added that the two journalists "have every right to appeal the judgement and point out why the judgement is wrong if they consider it wrong".

About 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar's western state of Rakhine a year ago after the army launched a brutal counterinsurgency campaign in response to August 2017 attacks by Rohingya militants on security forces.

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.

United Nations investigators said last month that Myanmar's military carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya with "genocidal intent", and that the commander-in-chief and five generals should be prosecuted for the gravest crimes under worldwide law.

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

She called for investment into education and agriculture, saying on Thursday she hoped Myanmar could eventually become an agri-based industrialised economy.

"There are of course ways (in) which, in hindsight, the situation could have been handled better", she said. She will not be attending the United Nations General Assembly this month, an event she also skipped past year as outrage mounted over the exodus of the Rohingya.

The violence in Rakhine has eased but Myanmar now has to deal with its aftermath, especially the repatriation of the Rohingyas.

The Rohingya would stay in refugee camps until they return to Myanmar or are resettled in other countries, Haque said.

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

She also rejected criticism from leaders, including Prime Minister Theresa May and USA vice president Mike Pence, over the convictions of two Reuters news agency reporters who had been investigating the killings of 10 Rohingya men and boys.

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