ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEAL BURMA: Two journalists imprisoned for helping cyclone victims visit international aid groups

Dear friends,

In June 2008 after Cyclone Nargis devastated the Burma delta, a group of homeless residents went to request assistance from offices of international agencies in Rangoon. At that time, two reporters for local news journals went along with them. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in this appeal is bringing you details of the subsequent arrest of the journalists along with the residents, and imprisonment of the two journalists on trumped-up charges. They are among a number of persons sentenced because they tried to help cyclone victims.


On 10 June 2008 a group of women and children came to the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Rangoon to request assistance for rebuilding their houses because their group of 25 families had been homeless and staying at a religious building in the outer suburban area of the city since Cyclone Nargis hit over a month before. Two young journalists, Ma Eint Khaing Oo working for Ecovision journal and Kyaw Kyaw Thant, a freelancer with Weekly Eleven, had arranged to go with them.

After they had gone to the ICRC, the police and members of a government-organized vigilante organisation detained the family members and journalists nearby the UNDP office before they could go inside. A group of men came up to them in plain clothes and without saying who they were, pushed them into waiting vehicles and drove them away. They released the family members to the custody of local council officials after 12 days in exchange for forcing them to testify that the two journalists brought them in order to stir up trouble and create animosity towards the government by saying that they had not received assistance and needed help from international groups.

In a closed court the two journalists denied the charges against them. Eint Khaing Oo said that she had gone around cyclone-affected areas in the vicinity of her house, where over 300 people had been left homeless, to see what she could do to help. She had worked together with local Red Cross personnel and had then discussed with them to go with a group of cyclone-affected people to try to get help from ICRC. A member of the local Red Cross had gone with them to the ICRC office and had met with the staff there to request assistance. He had also gone with them to the UN office to see if they could also get some assistance for their projects, and had given money for the cost of transport, but had left when they found the office closed. At no time had she done anything or said anything against the state, she said.

Kyaw Kyaw Thant said that he had gone to the affected area also to collect news about what was going on and to give food to the homeless and needy out of his own pocket, like thousands of other people in Rangoon did at that time. He also gave money to local Red Cross personnel for them to buy medicine and by chance met Eint Khaing Oo, whereupon he agreed to help with arrangements to meet the officials in international agencies. He denied that they had said that the affected persons had not received any aid or had done anything wrong. continue

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