Singaporean, Malaysian journalists arrested in Myanmar for using drones

Singaporean, Malaysian journalists arrested in Myanmar for using drones

journo arrested myanmar
Reports from media in Myanmar identified the detained journalists as Singaporean Lau Hon Meng and Malaysian Mok Choy Lin. (Photo: NewsWatchJournal/Facebook)

SINGAPORE: Myanmar police detained two journalists, a Singaporean and a Malaysian, and their interpreter and driver on Friday (Oct 27) in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, for using a drone to take pictures near the parliament compound.

The journalists - Lau Hon Meng from Singapore and Mok Choy Lin from Malaysia - were being questioned at a police station in Myanmar's capital Nay Pyi Taw after being detained in the morning, a local police officer told Reuters.

About 25 police staged an evening raid on the Yangon house of their Myanmar interpreter, well-known local reporter Aung Naing Soe, seizing his computer memory sticks and searching his documents.

Channel NewsAsia understands that the arrested Singaporean and Malaysian are currently journalists with the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation. The Turkish state broadcaster could not immediately be reached for comment.

Shwe Thaung, an officer from the Nay Pyi Taw police station No 1, where the four were being detained, confirmed the basic facts of the incident but declined to elaborate, including on whether any charges had been filed, citing an ongoing investigation.

"We are still investigating and can't say more than that," Shwe Thaung said.

The Myanmar Information Ministry said that the journalists intended to take photos of Nay Pyi Taw parliament buildings and pagodas when security guards spotted them.

Myanmar state broadcaster MRTV said the journalists did not have permission to film the parliament with a drone. It showed their journalist visas and said the ministry of foreign affairs had informed the Singaporean and Malaysian embassies about the matter.

The Myanmar Information Ministry released this photo of a drone confiscated from the two journalists detained in Nay Pyi Taw.

Local journalist Aung Naing Soe has worked with many international media on the country's transition to democracy after nearly five decades of military dictatorship.

His mother Thandar told Reuters police searched the house for computers and papers and asked for identification documents, and took Aung Naing Soe's memory sticks. The police also tried but failed to open his computer, she said.

"I asked them to show me the search warrant. But the police said they didn't need to do that because they were not searching for drugs," Thandar said.

An administrator from Yangon's Mingalar Taung Nyunt district, Ye Win Tun, who took part in the raid, confirmed that the police did not have a warrant but also said they did not need one.

"The search warrant would be necessary if they were searching for drugs or illegal card games, but in this instance it's OK if the local administrator is there," said Ye Win Tun.

He said the search lasted two hours and was carried out by the district police chief, township police officer, immigration officer, police special branch and several police officers, a total of about 25 people.

Investigations into the incident are ongoing. 

Additional reporting by May Wong.

Source: CNA/Reuters/aa/ec