In what came across as an arm twisting incident by a group of influential people, including relatives of Myanmar government ministers, a group of men muscled their way into the newsroom of The Sunlight in Yagon late Friday night and confiscated 14 computers and remaining journals, the publication’s chief editor said.
Moe Hein, chief editor of The Sunlight news journal, told the press yesterday that the journal’s publisher Yu Naing, retired Senior General Than Shwe’s grandson Phoe La Pyae, and Minister of Commerce’s son Thurein were among the group that confiscated the computers and journals.
He said they were accompanied by the news outlet’s publisher, Yu Naing, who appeared helpless and remained outside the building as the group of men prowl through the newsroom and frightened the staff along the way.
“A group of 15 or 20 people came to the office with six cars around midnight. Minister of Commerce U Win Myint’s son Ko Thurein, Phoe La Pyae, and his friends were in the group. They told the kids [the staffs] who they were and demanded the remaining journals. The kids had to give them as they were scared. They also demanded [the security guard] to open the door, but he refused to opened it. They then got inside from a door from the other side. One of the kids opened the door when he saw his acquaintance and the whole group went inside. They covered the CCTV after turning off the lights and took away the systems units from the computers. They took 14 [system units] out of 22 computers,” said Moe Hein.
Moe Hein said he only knew about the incident at 3 am when he called the office to ask about whether the staffs have any difficulties in distributing the remaining journals. He believes the incident took place due to two articles in Friday’s issue of the journal that criticised Phoe La Pyae, Miss Universe Myanmar beauty pageant, and the children of the country’s elites who the publication accused of having tendency to take advantages of people.
“The author Sitthuye Bala Min Htin wrote ‘Moonlight over Moscow’ which is about the Miss Universe beauty pageant, cronies, and car races. Another author, Htaung Thuye Ba Oak, wrote ‘Everything will go ablaze with a hoof beat of a horse, ‘ which is about how the children of the authority continued to take advantages over the public from 1962 to present days. We only urged them to stop doing those acts. It was not a personal attack,” said Moe Hein. According to him, the journal’s publisher Yu Naing and Phoe La Pyae remained outside while the rest of the group went inside the office.
“U Yu Naing was there but he didn’t go in. He was there because he’s my friend. He was brought along to the office. He couldn’t refuse them….He didn’t have the power to stop this. He’s only a normal trader and a normal trader is afraid of everyone. He might have tried to stop them from going inside, but he couldn’t…Phoe La Pyae didn’t go inside. He remained in the car outside,” said Moe Hein.
He continued that five people can stand as witnesses for the claim that Phoe La Pyae and Thurein were included in the group although he does not have CCTV footages as the group had not only covered the CCTV with a paper but also taken the system unit of the CCTV.
He has not reported this incident to the police yet and has only been consulting with his lawyer, he said.
An editor from The Sunlight journal, on condition of anonymity, said that less than four shareholders of the journal are the children of ministers and retired generals, but Moe Hein denied that claim by stating that he holds 90 percent of the shares while his relatives hold the remaining 10 percent. He also insisted that this was not a share issue.
He added that the articles for the journal were not selected by him alone but by the editorial team.
Moe Hein served as secretary of the Democratic Party for a New Society and travelled to the United States from Thailand. He returned to Myanmar less than a year ago and holds an American passport. There have been rumours of him having connections with entrepreneurs who are close to the military intelligence and the government even before his return to Myanmar, but he has denied these rumours.
The Daily Eleven was unable to contact publisher Yu Naing and Thurein to ask about the Friday night incident.