HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS OF MEDIA: Abduction and torture of two journalists by Karen BGF 

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On March 4 the two reporters were abducted, tortured and later released at about 5 pm the following day, according to Colonel Saw Chit Thu head of the Karen Border Guard Force (BGF), which is under the administration of the Myanmar army or Tatmadaw.

naw betty marnaw
Photo credit – myanmar-now.org

The reporter Naw Betty Han of Frontier Myanmar and a photojournalist Ko Mar Naw from Myanmar Times were detained besides Thaunyin River, Thare Pone Jetty, near Myawaddy Border Gate 1, while they were taking photographs of the new casino construction on March 4 within the Karen BGF controlled area.

According to Karen BGF Naw Betty Han was arrested because she took pictures of the border gate and during the initial interrogation notes on Shwe Kokko new town, Chit Thu Myiang flower park and casino were found. That was the reason why they were detained and interrogated.

Frontier Myanmar was alerted when it received phone message from Naw Betty Han that she was detained by the Karen BGF at Border Gate 1 on March 4, after which the phone went silent.

Consequently, the Myanmar Media Council called an emergency meeting and later asked the Karen Chief Minister Nang Khin Htwe Myint and chief police inspector to intervene, said council member Zeya Hlaing. Both reporters were eventually released ordered by Karen BGF leader Colonel Saw Chit Thu following the chief minister’s intervention.

Regarding the untoward episode, Naw Betty Han elaborated: “They took us to a rubber plantation covering our faces said to be for security reasons. I can’t see clearly and don’t know where we were. At this moment another car with two armed men arrived, who beat us up. They principally beat up the male more and kicked his face. As for me they stepped on my hands and slapped my face. In addition they asked be to open my phone using password. They wanted to know to whom I sent letters. We were not fed during our detention and only about one hour before we were to be released, they forcibly fed us,” according to the recent Radio Free Asia report.

Similarly, the photojournalist Ko Mar Naw revealed his bitter experience saying: “I thought I was going to die. He aimed at my throat with a sort of bayonet, kicked at my face left and right and also directly at the front part of the face with force, making my nose to bleed over-flowingly.” 

Regarding this Karen BGF spokesperson Major Naing Maung Zaw said those who have arrested and tortured the two reporters will be punished.

He said: “We will revealed the perpetrators. We knew them and they are now under custody. In order to take action effectively, the upper authorities will arrange accordingly.”

In the same vein, echoing that he disapproved of such actions, the Karen BGF boss Colonel Saw Chit Thu explicitly said: “The Karen BGF doing business is correct. Building resorts, new town are also right. The existence of casino is also true. The reporter will write the news that they see are happening. But whatever they write after reading you can clarify telling that what is more and what is less,” reported a well known media recently.

He added: “There is no need to act like this. I already ordered to punish the perpetrators. The reporters are also already been freed.  Doing like this is very shameful. I’ve ordered not to act like this in the future.” 

True to his words, Colonel Saw Chit Thu carried out his promised task shortly after.

Accordingly, Saw Dah Bo, who arrested and torturing Frontier Myanmar reporter Naw Betty Han, who was taking photos and Myanmar Times photojournalist Ko Mar Naw, was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment with hard labours in BGF General Headquarters Mae Thaing Kone prison, Hlaing Bwe Township in Mae Thaing Kone village. Thare Pone Gate supervisor Saw Soe Kyi and three soldiers are also sentenced to 2 months imprisonment at Military Area 4, BGF 1022 Battalion prison starting from March 6, 2020, reported Karen Information Center on March 7, in a YouTube video podcast which runs for nearly 10 minutes.

Frontier Myanmar Burmese section editor Nanda said it is unacceptable that the reporters were held more than day and being tortured. He said it is not yet decided whether the reporters and concerned people would file a case against the Karen BGF still hasn’t been decided. 

“Yes, our reporter, editor, publisher will discuss the case and decide. We also have to ask the opinion of the reporter. It is quite bad knowing that they are reporters abducting and beating them up,” said Nanda.

“The (BGF) authorities said this (abduction and torture) was not ordered from above. But the basis people (soldiers) treating the media harming them bodily have to be given a lesson to shed light on the situation,” he disgruntledly added.

It seems Colonel Saw Chit Thu has done what he could to avoid the animosity situation with the media from spiralling. But for now it is unclear if the punishment meted out on the Karen BGF footsoldiers will satisfy the concerned media and Myanmar Media Council is anybody’s guess.

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