The Irrawaddy

Myanmar Policeman Who Said Reuters Reporters Were Framed Details Sting Operation

Moe Yan Naing talks to the media after the court hearing on Wednesday. ( Photo: Myo Min Soe / The Irrawaddy)

YANGON — A Myanmar policeman now serving a prison sentence gave more details to a court on Wednesday about how he says two Reuters reporters were framed by police and said his imprisonment was a warning to other police officers who strive for truth and justice.

Police Captain Moe Yan Naing, 47, who since his original testimony on April 20 has been sentenced to a year in jail for violating police discipline, gave a blow-by-blow account of how he says a police chief ordered subordinates to give “secret” documents to Reuters reporter Ko Wa Lone in a sting operation.

“I want to say my imprisonment shows that the police force has directives and instructions above the law. It could scare off other police members who want to reveal the truth,” he told reporters after Wednesday’s court hearing in Yangon.

He told the judge that the documents were easily accessible to officers in the No. 8 Police Security Battalion’s received letters file or on its computer and not “secret,” as the prosecution has claimed. Capt. Moe Yan Naing served in the battalion until his arrest.

“I gave the testimony as I know and as I saw,” the police captain told reporters after the hearing. He said he did not regret giving his testimony.

Lead prosecutor U Kyaw Min Aung did not respond to a request for comment after the hearing.

Myanmar government spokesman U Zaw Htay said: “It will be carried out according to the law. The court is free, impartial, independent and reliable. We guarantee that the defendants will have their own rights, which means choosing their own lawyers, etc.”

The court has been holding hearings since January to decide whether Ko Wa Lone 32, and his Reuters colleague Ko Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, will be charged under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

At the time of their arrest in December, the reporters had been working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in a village in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State. The killings took place during an army crackdown that United Nations agencies say sent nearly 700,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh.

Document trap

In an account that closely followed his original testimony, but went into greater detail, Capt. Moe Yan Naing said that on Dec. 12 — hours before the reporters were arrested — he was among six officers who had previously been contacted by Ko Wa Lone who were interrogated by the Police Special Branch.

The internal investigation was led Police Brigadier General Tin Ko Ko, according to Capt. Moe Yan Naing.

When Brig. Gen. Tin Ko Ko found out that one of the six, Lance Corporal Naing Lin, had been in contact with Ko Wa Lone but had not met him in person, he ordered Lance Cpl. Naing Lin to use his phone to arrange a meeting with Ko Wa Lone that evening.

“I know that Police Brigadier General Tin Ko Ko instructed Police Lance Corporal Naing Lin to give Wa Lone documents related to our frontline activities in order to have him arrested,” Capt. Moe Yan Naing told Judge Ye Lwin, who was overseeing the proceedings.

Capt. Moe Yan Naing said Brig. Gen. Tin Ko Ko told the policemen involved that if they did not “get Wa Lone” they would be detained.

Reuters has been unable to contact Brig. Gen. Tin Ko Ko or Lance Cpl. Naing Lin for comment. A police spokesman said after Capt. Moe Yan Naing’s previous testimony that the brigadier general “has no reason to do such a thing.”

Family evicted

Prosecutors had originally called Capt. Moe Yan Naing as a witness, but asked the court to declare him unreliable after his testimony appeared to undermine their case. The judge rejected that application last week.

Capt. Moe Yan Naing was brought to court in shackles and wearing a dark blue prison uniform, in contrast to his first appearance last month when he had worn his police captain’s uniform and was not handcuffed.

He said he had been convicted and sentenced in his absence and still did not know which court had handed down the punishment.

Capt. Moe Yan Naing has said he spoke to Ko Wa Lone in late November about police operations in Rakhine. He said Ko Wa Lone introduced himself as a reporter and interviewed Capt. Moe Yan Naing at a teashop inside the headquarters of the 8th Police Security Battalion.

Capt. Moe Yan Naing’s 42-year-old wife, Daw Tu Tu, listened to Wednesday’s proceedings from the side of the courtroom. Together with their three children, she was evicted from police housing in the capital, Naypyitaw, the day after Capt. Moe Yan Naing’s first testimony. The family has since moved in with Capt. Moe Yan Naing’s father in his native town of Khin U, in central Myanmar.

Police have said the eviction was unrelated to the reporters’ case and that the family had been overdue to move out of the apartment.

Ko Wa Lone told journalists after the hearing that Capt. Moe Yan Naing “bravely proved that in our society there are people who adore the truth and justice.”