Myanmar Journalists Detained by Karen Border Guard to Be Released

By Zarni Mann 5 March 2020

MANDALAY—Two journalists from Frontier Myanmar and Myanmar Times are set to be released Thursday evening after being detained by a Karen armed group while on a reporting trip on the Thai border.

Reporter Naw Betty Han of Frontier Myanmar and Ko Mar Naw, a photojournalist from Myanmar Times, were detained by the ethnic Karen Border Guard Forces (BGF) in Myawaddy Township, Karen State on Wednesday. Frontier announced on Thursday afternoon that Naw Betty Han would soon be released.

Myawaddy police confirmed to The Irrawaddy that the BGF were bringing Naw Betty Han to the Myawaddy police station Thursday evening.

“We are waiting at the police station to receive the reporter. They will be arriving soon,” said Police Major Thet Lwin Oo. The police were unable to offer information on Mar Naw at the time.

Naw Betty Han was covering land and development issues in Karen State when she lost contact with the Frontier office.

The Karen State-based BGF, formed in 2010, is a splinter group of the defunct Democratic Karen Buddhist Army and is backed by the military. The group operates businesses in the area, including casinos, and is involved in building the Chinese-backed Shwe Kokko development project. Naw Betty Han has written extensively about them.

Frontier said the reporter sent an SMS saying the Karen BGF had abducted her near Border Gate 1 on Thursday afternoon before they lost contact.

Frontier then attempted to contact the BGF, the military and local authorities and also sought advice and assistance from the Myanmar Press Council (MPC).

Karen BGF head Colonel Saw Chit Thu told The Irrawaddy on Thursday afternoon that their soldiers detained Naw Betty Han because she took pictures of the border gate. They interrogated her and found notes on casinos and investments in the area in her notebook, the colonel explained.

“I have ordered her release now. It’s a shame. I have warned my guys not to do this again,” he said.

Editor’s Note: The story was updated on March 6 to reflect the number of journalists arrested.

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