BANGKOK – A police officer in Myanmar who testified that he was ordered to help entrap two Reuters journalists investigating abuses by security forces against Rohingya Muslims has been punished under police regulations, a police spokesman said Monday.
Police Capt. Moe Yan Naing testified in court on April 20 that his superior arranged for two policemen to meet reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo and give them documents described as "important secret papers" in order to arrest them on charges of possessing state secrets.
The day after Moe Yan Naing's surprise testimony — he had been a prosecution witness — his wife and daughter were ordered to move out of their police housing unit in the capital, Naypyitaw.
Police spokesman Col. Myo Thu Soe said Moe Yan Naing was sentenced Saturday and transferred to the Correctional Department, but refused to give details. Moe Yan Naing has been detained since the reporters' arrest on Dec. 12, apparently for earlier giving one of them an interview.
Officers who violate Myanmar's Police Disciplinary Act can be sentenced to up to a year in prison.
The two reporters were charged with violating the Official Secrets Act, a law dating from British colonial times, and if convicted, could get up to 14 years in prison. They apparently were targeted by the authorities because their work concerned the brutal crackdown by security forces against minority Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar's Rakhine state. About 700,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since the crackdown began last August.
The two journalists had worked on an investigation of the killing of 10 Rohingya villagers in Inn Din village, for which seven soldiers were sentenced to up 10 years in prison with hard labor, according to the army chief's Facebook page.
Rights groups, journalist associations and several Western governments have called for the reporters' release, saying the case against them is a violation of freedom of the press.