Myanmar's journalists face 'humanitarian crisis' as crackdown intensifies

(CNN Business)Three senior reporters who fled Myanmar for Thailand after the brutal military coup “face certain arrest and persecution” if they are deported following their arrest in Chiang Mai on Sunday, journalist groups say.

The three are prominent journalists with the independent Burmese news agency Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) and were detained in the northern Thai city after a random police search, their editor said in a statement Monday.
They, along with two unnamed activists, have been charged with illegally entering the country.

    The case could be the biggest test yet for how Thailand decides to treat those fleeing persecution from Myanmar in the wake of the coup.

      “DVB strongly urges the Thai authorities to not deport them back to Burma, as their life will be in serious danger if they were to return,” said Aye Chan Naing, executive director and chief editor of DVB, who used another name for Myanmar.
      They are hunted and in hiding but Myanmar's journalists continue to report the truth

      “They have been covering the demonstrations in Burma until March 8 — the day the military authority revoked DVB’s TV license and banned DVB from doing any kind of media work.”
      Thailand Police Captain Duangrit Wannarit, who filed the charges, told CNN Business the five arrested were Burmese passport holders and had not gone through the immigration system. He said a public prosecutor will decide whether to indict them at a hearing on Tuesday.
      As well as being charged for allegedly entering the country illegally, Duangrit said the “prosecutor will consider if they have also breached the communicable disease act.”
      Duangrit declined to give more details, saying it was a “highly sensitive” case. However, he told CNN Business the five would not be sent back to Myanmar immediately after the court proceedings, and would remain in the custody of immigration police.
      Thailand’s foreign ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat said in a tweet Tuesday “Thai authorities concerned are coordinating to find humanitarian solution(s) to the recent case of journalists from Myanmar.”

      In this photo released by the San Sai District Administrative Office, a Thai officer checks the temperature of journalists working for Democratic Voice of Burma, at San Sai District in Chiang Mai province north of Thailand Sunday, May 9, 2021.

      100 days since coup

      Tuesday marks 100 days since Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup on February 1, ousting the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
      Since then, the military junta has brutally cracked down on any perceived opposition to its rule. Mass street protests have been suppressed with deadly force, with more than 780 people killed by security forces and almost 5,000 arrested, according to advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
      The junta, led by Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, has attempted to silence independent media. Journalists across the country have been attacked and detained merely for doing their jobs. More than 80 reporters have been arrested since the coup, with more than half of those still in detention as of May 3, according to a statement from Western embassies in Myanmar.
      The military has also revoked the licenses of prominent independent broadcasters, online news outlets and newspapers, including DVB, so working for them is considered illegal. On May 4, the junta banned the use of satellite dishes — an order aimed at DVB and banned independent news agency Mizzima, which continued to broadcast by satellite into the country.

      Protesters make the three-finger salute of resistance during an anti-coup demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar, on Tuesday, April 27.

      Police officers clear a road after demonstrators spread placards in Yangon on Saturday, April 24.

      Protesters run from security forces during an anti-coup demonstration in Yangon on April 12.

      Buses from the Yangon Bus Service are seen burnt on April 12.

      Police talk as they arrive at the site of a demonstration in Yangon on April 12.

      Anti-coup protesters walk through Yangon's Hlaing township on April 9.

      An anti-coup protester raises a decorated Easter egg along with the three-fingered salute of resistance during a demonstration in Yangon on April 4.

      Protesters hold homemade pipe air guns during a demonstration in Yangon on April 3.

      Protesters hold improvised weapons in Yangon on April 3.

      Residents of the Tamwe area of Yangon participate in a candlelight vigil on April 3.

      People take part in a "flower strike" in Yangon on April 2.

      Protesters wearing face paint stand near a burning barricade during an anti-coup demonstration in Yangon on March 30.

      Soldiers walk toward anti-coup protesters during a demonstration in Yangon on March 30.

      Protesters run to avoid the military in Yangon on March 30.

      A man rides his bike as smoke billows from burning barricades in Yangon on March 30.

      Protesters throw stones and use slingshots as security forces approached in Yangon on March 28.

      Smoke rises after anti-coup protesters burned tires in Yangon on March 27.

      Protesters make incendiary devices during an anti-coup rally in Yangon.

      Smoke rises over Yangon's Thaketa Township on March 27.

      Mourners attend the funeral of Tin Hla, a 43-year-old who was reportedly shot dead by security forces during a protest.

      People cry in Yangon after a relative was shot during a crackdown on anti-coup protesters.

      Protesters occupy a street during a rally in Yangon on March 27.

      Protesters gesture during a march in Yangon on March 26.

      Thein Zaw, a journalist with the Associated Press, waves after being <a href="" target="_blank">released from a prison</a> in Yangon on March 24. He had been detained while covering an anti-coup protest in February.

      Men pray during the funeral of Khin Myo Chit, a 7-year-old girl <a href="" target="_blank">who was shot in her home</a> by Myanmar's security forces on March 23. The girl was killed during a military raid, according to the Reuters news agency and the advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

      A Buddhist monk uses binoculars as he squats behind a road barricade with others in Mandalay, Myanmar, on March 22.

      The mother of Aung Kaung Htet wails during the teenage boy's funeral on March 21. Aung, 15, was killed when military junta forces opened fire on anti-coup protesters in Yangon.

      Unidentified people cross the Tiau River at the India-Myanmar border on March 20. Some people from Myanmar <a href="" target="_blank">have sought refuge in India</a> since the protests began.

      An anti-coup protester jumps over a makeshift barricade in Yangon on March 19.

      Protesters take positions on Yangon's Bayint Naung Bridge on March 17. The bridge was blocked with an improvised barricade to prevent security forces from crossing.

      Medical students hold up the <a href="" target="_blank">three-finger salute</a> at the Yangon funeral of Khant Nyar Hein on March 16. The first-year medical student was fatally shot during the crackdown.

      Protesters test Molotov cocktails in Yangon on March 16.

      Protesters stand near burning tires in Yangon on March 16.

      Anti-coup protesters pray in Yangon on March 14.

      Emergency workers transport the body of Shel Ye Win, who was shot by security forces in Mandalay.

      Smoke billows from the industrial zone of the Hlaing Tharyar township in Yangon on March 14. The Chinese Embassy in Myanmar said several <a href="" target="_blank">Chinese-funded factories were set ablaze</a> during protests. Demonstrators have accused Beijing of supporting the coup and junta.

      A member of Myanmar's police is seen firing a weapon toward protesters in Yangon on March 13.

      People lay flowers and light candles beside bloodied pavement where protester Chit Min Thu was killed in Yangon.

      Military trucks are seen near a burning barricade in Yangon that was erected by protesters and then set on fire by soldiers on March 10.

      A protester holds a homemade shield during an anti-coup demonstration in Yangon on March 9.

      A protester discharges a fire extinguisher to counter the impact of tear gas that was fired by police in Yangon on March 8.

      Protesters string up longyi, traditional clothing worn in Myanmar, during a demonstration in Yangon on March 7.

      The wife of Phoe Chit, a protester who died during a demonstration, cries over her husband's coffin during his funeral in Yangon on March 5.

      Protesters step on portraits of Myanmar's armed forces chief, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, during a demonstration in Yangon on March 5.

      People cry in Yangon on March 4, near a spot where a family member was killed while protesting.

      Protesters lie on the ground after police opened fire to disperse an anti-coup demonstration in Mandalay on March 3.

      Schoolteachers wear traditional hats while participating in an anti-coup demonstration in Mandalay on March 3.

      A soldier stands next to a detained man during a demonstration in Mandalay on March 3.

      Anti-coup protesters run in Yangon on March 3. One of them discharged a fire extinguisher to counter the impact of tear gas fired by police.

      An anti-coup protester writes vital emergency information of another protester on his arm in Yangon.

      Police run toward protesters to disperse a demonstration in Yangon on March 3.

      A citizen of Myanmar living in India burns a poster of Myanmar's military chief during a protest in New Delhi on March 3.

      Medics help supply oxygen to a protester who was exposed to tear gas in Yangon on March 3.

      Protesters flee after tear gas was fired during a demonstration in Yangon on March 1.

      Protesters smoke behind shields during a demonstration in Yangon on March 1.

      Protesters in Yangon run away from tear gas on March 1.

      People in Yangon take part in a ceremony on February 28 to remember those who have been killed during demonstrations.

      Soldiers patrol during a protest in Yangon on February 28.

      Protesters take cover as they clash with police in Yangon on February 28.

      Protesters erect barricades during a demonstration in Yangon on February 28.

      Police charge at anti-coup protesters in Yangon on February 27.

      An injured protester receives medical attention in Mandalay after police and military forces cracked down on protests on February 26.

      Factory workers hold placards and shout slogans as they hold an anti-coup protest in Yangon on February 25.

      Anti-coup protesters shout slogans in Yangon on February 25.

      A police officer films protesters near the Indonesian Embassy in Yangon on February 24.

      Thida Hnin cries during the funeral of her husband, Thet Naing Win, in Mandalay on February 23. He and another protester <a href="" target="_blank">were fatally shot by security forces</a> during an anti-coup protest.

      Police stand guard near the US Embassy in Yangon as protesters take part in an anti-coup demonstration on February 22.

      Protesters hold signs featuring civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration in Yangon on February 22.

      Protesters gather for a demonstration on February 22.

      A man is carried after police dispersed protesters in Mandalay on February 20.

      A police truck uses a water cannon to disperse protesters in Mandalay on February 20.

      A police officer aims a gun toward protesters during a demonstration in Mandalay on February 20.

      A protester holds a Suu Kyi poster as he sits in front of police in Yangon on February 19.

      Protesters flash the three-fingered salute during a rally in downtown Yangon on February 19.

      Flower tributes and sympathy messages are left in Yangon for <a href="" target="_blank">Mya Thweh Thweh Khine.</a> The 20-year-old was shot in the head at a protest in Naypyidaw, and she died on February 19.

      Protesters block a major road during a demonstration in Yangon on February 17.

      Demonstrators block a Yangon bridge with their cars on February 17.

      Buddhist monks march during an anti-coup protest in Yangon on February 16.

      A Suu Kyi banner is displayed during demonstrations in Yangon on February 15.

      Soldiers carry barricades in Yangon on February 15.

      Elected members of Parliament wave to protesters in Yangon as police surround the headquarters of Suu Kyi's political party, the National League for Democracy, on February 15.

      Medics clear the way as an injured protester is carried away for treatment in Mandalay, Myanmar, on February 15.

      People gather around an armored vehicle in Yangon on February 14.

      Young people in Yangon take part in an anti-coup hip-hop performance on February 14.

      Protesters demonstrate in Yangon on February 14.

      A child runs alongside an armored vehicle in Yangon on February 14.

      Protesters march through the city of Shwebo on February 13.

      Members of the Myanmar Photographers Association hold up their cameras as they call for Suu Kyi's release on February 13.

      Police detain a protester during a demonstration in Mawlamyine on February 12.

      Farmers ride a tractor with a Suu Kyi poster during a demonstration in Thongwa on February 12.

      A protester dressed as Lady Justice makes a three-finger salute as she takes part in a demonstration in Yangon on February 11.

      Protesters demonstrate in Bagan, a UNESCO World Heritage site, on February 11.

      Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the country's military leader, makes a televised statement on February 11. He announced that<a href="" target="_blank"> more than 23,000 prisoners were set to be granted amnesty and released that day.</a> It was unclear what offenses the prisoners were convicted of.

      Bodybuilders take part in a protest in Yangon on February 11.

      People hold up letters that spell "get out dictators" during a demonstration at Inle Lake on February 11.

      A protester carries a child during a march in Yangon on February 10.

      Women in wedding gowns holds up anti-coup placards in Yangon on February 10.

      A police officer aims a gun during clashes with protesters in the capital of Naypyidaw on February 9.

      A protester pleads for police to refrain from using tear gas against demonstrators in Yangon on February 9.

      Police fire water cannons at protesters in Naypyidaw on February 9.

      Protesters gather in Yangon on February 8.

      Protesters flash three-fingered salutes as they face rows of riot police in Naypyidaw on February 8.

      Hospital workers show three-finger salutes during a demonstration in Yangon on February 7.

      A rally takes place in Yangon on February 7.

      Protesters shout slogans in Yangon on February 7.

      Protesters give roses to riot police in Yangon on February 6.

      Yangon residents bang objects to show support for Suu Kyi and her party on February 5.

      Soldiers block a road near Myanmar's Parliament on February 2, a day after the coup.

      Offices of newspapers and online media have been raided, and a nightly news bulletin on state TV broadcasts the names and images of those sought by the junta, including journalists.
      Many are being held on charges under section 505a of Myanmar’s Penal Code — a law amended by the military that makes it a crime punishable by up to three years in prison for publishing or circulating comments that “cause fear” or spread “false news.”
      There are fears if the five are deported to Myanmar, they will face certain arrest and the possibility of torture. Media and rights groups are calling on Thailand to ensure they remain in the country on humanitarian grounds.
      “Thai authorities should uphold the country’s proud history as a sanctuary for journalists fleeing military repression in Myanmar, and on humanitarian grounds should not deport three Democratic Voice of Burma journalists recently arrested for alleged illegal entry,” said Shawn Crispin, senior Southeast Asia representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
      “Myanmar’s military regime has repeatedly abused and detained journalists, and Thai authorities should not force these members of the press to face potentially severe retaliation for their work.”

      Big test for Thailand’s position on coup

      The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) said in a statement it was “seriously concerned” about the arrests.
      “These five individuals would face certain arrest and persecution, if not worse, for their work and association with the DVB, and under no circumstances should they be deported back to Myanmar,” the statement read.
      “Rather, the DVB journalists and their associates should be released from detention, urgently offered protection, and granted the right to remain temporarily in Thailand.”
      DVB’s Aye Chan Naing also urged the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Bangkok “to intervene to help guard their safety.”
      “We request the international community to help call the Thai authorities to waive their deportation,” he said.
      'I thought I would die.' Myanmar protesters describe torture they suffered in detention

      For years, Thai authorities allowed exiled Burmese media organizations like DVB to operate within its borders.
      Thailand has also hosted tens of thousands of refugees in nine main camps along its border with Myanmar for three decades, following armed conflicts, human rights abuses and persecution of ethnic minorities by the Myanmar military. Thailand, however, has not ratified the UN refugee convention.
      Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha also seized power in a coup in 2014, and held onto his leadership following 2019 elections that opponents said were not free or fair. His government has arrested dozens of pro-democracy protesters who turned out on masse demanding his resignation and accusing him of engineering the election. Prayut has denied the election was flawed and allegations of interference.
      Prayut has previously declined to make a strong statement on the situation in Myanmar. Last month, the international community had hoped Southeast Asian leaders would be able to reach a breakthrough on stopping the violence in Myanmar at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting, but Prayut had skipped the summit, sending his deputy prime minister in his place.
      “Regarding the situation in Myanmar, it is a highly complex issue,” he had said at that time. “The government is currently working at various channels in order to find peaceful solution, as a duty of being member state to AESAN.”

        Thailand has agreed to support the plan that emerged from the ASEAN meeting, which includes ending violence in Myanmar and a constructive dialogue among all parties.
        The FCCT warned “the world is watching” how Thailand proceeds, adding it was an “important case for press freedom in Myanmar and the region, and for the protection of those fleeing the junta’s brutal crackdown on independent media and civil society.”
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