World Update, Suu Kyi defends jailing of Reuters journalists


The UN began work on Wednesday inside Myanmar's violence-torn northern Rakhine State, the first time its agencies have been granted permission to operate there since more than 7,00,000 Rohingya Muslims fled the area previous year.

In a rare comment on the case, Ms Suu Kyi said that the plight of the Rohingya "could have been handled better". Normally, a country's foreign minister would speak in the absence of its top leader, but because Suu Kyi also holds the foreign ministry portfolio, Myanmar's speaker is likely to one of the two Cabinet ministers who 7 Days said would attend the meeting, Kyaw Tin and Kyaw Tint Swe.

"I wonder whether very many people have actually read the summary of the judgment which had nothing to do with freedom of expression at all, it had to do with an Official Secrets Act", she said while addressing the World Economic Forum in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The pair can appeal their sentence, she said, "if they think it is wrong, and point out why they think it wrong".

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".

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Nobel Peace Prize victor Suu Kyi heads the civilian government in the specially created role of state counsellor, but also serves as minister of foreign affairs.

It was widely seen as the authorities taking revenge on Reuters for their reporting on the Rakhine crisis which has seen the country accused of genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority and of ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has said that, with hindsight, her government could have better handled the situation in Rakhine state that led to the forced displacement of more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims. "We can not choose and pick who should be protected by the rule of law".

Aung San Suu Kyi also rejected criticism over the show-trial conviction last week of two Reuters news agency reporters who helped expose extrajudicial killings of 10 Rohingya men and boys. "It had to do with the Official Secrets Act".

"She fails to understand that real "rule of law" means respect for evidence presented in court, actions brought based on clearly defined and proportionate laws, and independence of the judiciary from influence by the government or security forces", he said.

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Rohingya refugee girls cross a makeshift bamboo bridge at Kutupalong refugee camp, where they have been living amid uncertainty over their future after they fled Myanmar to escape violence a year ago, in Bangladesh.

The reporters were both sentenced to seven years' imprisonment on charges of possessing state secrets.

Aid workers say conditions for a safe and orderly return of the refugees have not been met.

She made her comments at the World Economic Forum on ASEAN in Hanoi in response to a question from the forum moderator who asked whether she felt comfortable about the reporters being jailed. "On all these counts, the trial of the Reuters journalists failed the test".

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