Myanmar leader Suu Kyi defends jailing of Reuters reporters
World / 13 September 2018, 09:12am / Bennett Murray and Rik Glauert
Hanoi - Myanmar's de facto leader and one-time democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi defended Thursday the jailing of two Reuters reporters who were convicted of collecting state secrets.
Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were arrested in Yangon in December after investigating a massacre of members of the Rohingya minority group in the western state of Rakhine.
The reporters, who said they were set up by police, were jailed for seven years earlier this month despite international condemnation.
"They were not jailed because they were journalists, they were there because a sentence had been passed on them because they had broken the Official Secrets Act," said Suu Kyi, in reference to the colonial-era laws under which they were convicted.
"If anyone feels there has been a miscarriage of justice I would like them to point it out," she added during an interview at the World Economic Forum conference in Hanoi with Borge Brende, the body's president.
Suu Kyi was slammed internationally for jailing the reporters. Suu Kyi, who ended decades of military rule when she came to power in 2016, has been criticized for presiding over a backsliding in press freedom.
Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch said on Thursday Suu Kyi had "got it all wrong" in her comments on the reporters in Vietnam.
Suu Kyi "fails to understand that real 'rule of law' means respect for evidence presented in court, actions brought based on clearly defined and proportionate laws, and independence of the judiciary from influence by the government or security forces," he said.
Suu Kyi also defended the government's treatment of minority Rohingya, saying that while there were ways that the situation "might have been handled better," the government still sought to treat all groups fairly.
"We believe that for the sake of long-term stability and security we have to be fair to all sides, that rule of law must apply to everybody," she said.
UN investigators said last month that Myanmar committed grave human rights abuses amounting to genocide in Rakhine state, from where more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims were driven out during a military crackdown launched last year.
Myanmar has consistently played down reports of torture, arson, rape, and extrajudicial killings against the Rohingya and insists the brutal crackdown was a legitimate operation against Rohingya militants.
Myanmar last week rejected the International Criminal Court's ruling that it had jurisdiction over the Rohingya exodus. Myanmar said deportations of Rohingya "could not be further from the truth."
Rohingya Muslims, an ethnic minority group in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, were stripped of citizenship in 1982 and have been long subject to persecution in Rakhine state, where most lived.
They are labelled 'Bengali' by the government and much of the Myanmar population to infer they are interlopers from Bangladesh and are denied access to health care, education and freedom of movement.