HSIPAW, Shan State — Three Myanmar journalists detained by Myanmar’s military while reporting in northern Shan State were charged under Article 17(1) of the Unlawful Association Act on Wednesday and were remanded to Hsipaw Prison, according to local police.
Tatmadaw Adjutant Thet Naing Oo from Light Infantry Battalion No. 503 filed the lawsuit against the three journalists on Wednesday and the court date is set for July 11, Hsipaw Township police officer Myint Win told The Irrawaddy.
The three journalists were handed over to police at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, he said, after being held by the military since Monday afternoon.
The military arrested seven people, including three reporters—The Irrawaddy’s Lawi Weng, also known as U Thein Zaw, as well as U Aye Nai and U Pyae Bone Naing from Democratic Voice of Burma—on the road between Namhsan and Lashio townships in northern Shan State on Monday after reporting in areas controlled by ethnic armed group the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).
The Tatmadaw filed the case to take action against the reporters for having contact with the TNLA, as the group was designated an unlawful association by the Shan State parliament, according to Myint Win.
“The reporter failed to seek permission, or report to local authorities,” the case allegedly said.
Violators of Article 17(1) face two to three years in prison and a possible fine for being a member of an “unlawful association,” making contributions to such an association or assisting in its operations.
Lawi Weng told The Irrawaddy in Hsipaw, through the police officer, that his health was good and he was taking routine medicine for existing heart problems. Lawi Weng was previously treated for kidney failure.
A DVB reporter in Hsipaw said his colleagues were in good health but could not confirm their treatment by authorities as he also only spoke to them via a police officer.
The identities and situation of the four other people arrested remains unknown. Until Wednesday afternoon—the third day of detention—the whereabouts of the three journalists were also unknown.
The reporters had traveled to a TNLA-controlled area to report on a drug eradication event marking the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
The Shan State parliament voted to brand the TNLA, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Arakan Army (AA), as “terrorist organizations” last December.
More than 100 civil society organizations objected to the branding, arguing the label would further complicate the path to reconciliation.
The military-appointed defence minister proposed the branding to the Union Parliament in December, but the parliament voted against it.
Reporting by Zaw Zaw, San Yamin Aung, and Tun Tun.