Myanmar Drops Charges, Frees TRT Journalists

By The Irrawaddy 29 December 2017

YANGON — Two foreign journalists and two Myanmar nationals who were sentenced to two months in prison for attempting to fly a drone near Myanmar’s Parliament in Naypyitaw were released on Friday, after police withdrew additional charges.

The four—Turkish state broadcaster TRT World producer Mok Choy Lin from Malaysia, freelance camera operator Lau Hon Meng from Singapore, and their interpreter Ko Aung Naing Soe and driver U Hla Tin from Myanmar— were arrested on Oct. 27 and sentenced to two months in prison on Nov. 10 under the 1934 colonial-era Myanmar Aircraft Act for filming with a drone.

At a Dec. 26 court hearing, the plaintiffs, police officer Tun Tun Win and immigration official U Htay Win, withdrew the additional charges under the 2012 Export and Import Law for illegally bringing the drone into the country and Section 13 (1) of the 1947 Immigration Act. The latter was brought separately against the two foreign journalists after their visas expired while in custody.

The crew was given remission as their two-month prison terms were due to be served on Jan. 9.

The plaintiffs said on Tuesday that they withdrew the charges so that Myanmar could maintain good relations with Malaysia and Singapore and because authorities didn’t find any intent on the part of the accused to harm the country’s security.

Ko Aung Naing Soe, the local interpreter, said that the four would like to thank the officials for withdrawing the case. He said that they were treated well in prison and also during the interrogation, adding that they admitted they were guilty of Article 10 of the Myanmar Aircraft Act and they would now take caution to that effect.

“Unexpectedly, we were jailed and we were also released unexpectedly today. We are really happy,” he told The Irrawaddy on Friday.