French Man Jailed for Drone Flight Awaiting Deportation

By Htet Naing Zaw 7 March 2019

NAYPYITAW—A French national who was sentenced to one month in prison with hard labor after flying a drone near the Union Parliament Building completed his sentence Wednesday but remains in detention in Naypyitaw awaiting deportation.

Though he has served his time in Yamethin Prison, Arthur Desclaux now faces deportation under the Immigration Law. However, he is being held at a police station in Ottarathiri Township until someone can be found to act as surety for him, township immigration officer U Myint Zaw told reporters. He remains in detention at the police station as he faces a 10-million-kyat bill for the deportation and there is no one to cover it.

“Unfortunately, his family doesn’t have friends here. So far, there is no one who can act as surety for him, so he has to stay here. The [French] Embassy can’t act as surety because it needs to be done by a person,” U Myint Zaw said.

According to the Immigration Law, Immigration officials are authorized to detain a foreigner for a maximum of 15 days before permission is granted for deportation. However, the Immigration Office is expected to act promptly out of consideration for the diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The counselor at the French Embassy said he believed the sentence of one month in prison was appropriate, as Desclaux flew the drone in a restricted area near Gate 2 of the Union Parliament building on Feb. 7.

Desclaux entered Myanmar through the Myawaddy border checkpoint from Mae Sot town in Thailand’s Tak province on Jan. 30. He arrived in Naypyitaw by bicycle on Feb. 7. He was arrested while flying the drone on the same day, before he had even found accommodation in the city.

Arthur Desclaux’s bicycle. The French national arrived in Naypyitaw by bicycle on Feb. 7. / Htet Naing Zaw / The Irrawaddy

He was charged under Article 8 of the 2012 Export and Import Law for illegally bringing a drone into the country. The law prohibits people from exporting and importing restricted materials. Violators face up to three years’ imprisonment and a fine if convicted.

Desclaux said he was unaware of the need to declare the drone. He would not have been imprisoned if he had declared it.

After his release from prison on Wednesday, the French national was charged by the Civil Aviation Department and the Immigration Department with two additional offenses: violating the 1934 Burma Aircraft Act and visa regulations.

He confessed to violating both laws. The Ottarathi Township Court fined him 50,000 kyats for the first charge, and 100,000 kyats for the second charge. The French Embassy paid the fines for him.

The township judge said the court gave Desclaux a light sentence considering as he is a foreigner and not familiar with Myanmar’s laws, and had already been imprisoned under the Export and Import Law.