Reuters Reporters Accuse Police Witness of Falsely Testifying at Their Trial

By Htun Htun 2 February 2018

YANGON — Two Reuters reporters arrested for illegal possession of state secrets accused police of falsely testifying against them at their trial on Thursday.

On Thursday, the court heard testimony from prosecution witness Police Major Min Thant, the former chief of the Mingalardon Township Police Force, whom the two Reuters reporters claimed gave a false account of their arrest.

Meanwhile, the judge denied bail to Ko Wa Lone, 31, and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, saying that those charged under Article 3.1(b) of the Official Secrets Act are not eligible for bail.

The Official Secrets Act is a colonial-era law that dates back to 1923 and carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

“He said we were arrested by uniformed police. But those who arrested us were not wearing uniforms,” Ko Wa Lone told reporters about the police witness’s account of the moment he and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo were detained.

The pair was arrested on Dec. 12 after they had been invited to meet police officers for dinner in Yangon’s Mingalardon Township. The reporters have told relatives they were seized almost immediately after being handed some documents at a restaurant by two policemen they had not met before.

“His account is different from what really happened,” said Ko Kyaw Soe Oo, referring to the testimony of Pol. Major Min Thant.

Min Thant was transferred to the Dagon Township Police Force after the arrest of the two reporters, said defense lawyer U Than Zaw Aung.

A government document listing casualties, lost weapons and ammunition was submitted to the court as evidence.

The police witness acknowledged that the details in the documents found in the possession of the reporters when they were arrested had already been published in newspaper reports, said U Than Zaw Aung.

“[The government] had explained the details of the Maungdaw incident, including the casualties and lost weapons and ammunition to news media, and diplomats. The public already knew about it, so I don’t think it was a secret,” he said.

Police also gave a false account of the location where the reporters were arrested, and could not explain satisfactorily why they were there, said U Than Zaw Aung, adding that police must have had a pre-meditated plan to arrest the two.

The trial is scheduled to reconvene on Tuesday.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.