Journalists Barred from Court in High-profile Firearms Case

By Htun Htun 10 January 2018

YANGON — Journalists were restricted from covering the trial of U Phyo Ko Ko Tint San, who has been detained for illegal possession of firearms since October, at Thaketa Township Court in Yangon.

Four suspects in the case including U Phyo Ko Ko Tint San, the chairman of ACE Co and son of the sports minister during U Thein Sein’s administration, reportedly appeared at the court on Tuesday.

The handbook for media access to the courts published by the Supreme Court acknowledges that the Media Law provides journalists with access to courts in line with existing laws.

However, in the case of U Phyo Ko Ko Tint San, journalists were shut out of the court compound though they had registered to cover the trial and were given admission cards.

Police did not even confirm the trial until 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

In other high-profile cases like the abuse of housemaids by the Ava tailoring factory owners, the detention of The Irrawaddy and Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) reporters and the latest one, the detention of two Reuters reporters, media access to the courts was granted.

U Phyo Ko Ko Tint San was detained along with his two ACE employees after police found them with pistols, bullets and illicit drugs at the Naypyitaw Airport on Oct. 15.

Around 30 firearms, bullets and drugs were then discovered at the ACE hotel, company property, and U Phyo Ko Ko Tint San’s houses in Naypyitaw and Yangon.

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has since taken over the case and has charged 15 suspects including U Phyo Ko Ko Tint San for illegal possession of firearms and illicit drugs as well as under the Telecommunications Law for keeping walkie-talkies, the Export/Import Law for keeping drones and the State Secrets Act for the unauthorized use of the National Security Council (NSC) logo.

A suspect identified as Kyaw Chan Nyein is still at large. “We’re seeking him as a fugitive,” said a police officer of Thaketa Township Police Station.

According to the police, the next trial is scheduled for Jan. 12.

U Phyo Ko Ko Tint San and seven accomplices were brought to trial on Jan. 3 for the first time in a Naypyitaw court since their detention.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.