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Reuters reporters sentenced in Myanmar

Source: Indian Express

Written by Nirupama Subramanian | Yangon

‘We stand by the two journalists but don’t blame the lady too much’
Global pressure on Aung San Suu Kyi, argue activists, plays into the hands of the Myanmarese military — but many feel she cannot duck responsibility.

IN a crowded cafe in the A K K Mall in downtown Yangon, squeezed on a table between strangers, a pro-democracy activist looks around warily and warns that talking about the Rohingya in a public place is not a good idea. He says it would be better to use the letter R (for Rohingya) and B (for Buddhists) while discussing the matter.

In the office of his newly established People’s Party, Ko Ko Gyi, a leader of the anti-junta 1988 student uprising, and of the group that calls itself the 88 Generation after that uprising, who broke away from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) over differences during the 2015 election, insists the term Rohingya is a fake identity for migrants from Bangladesh.

In Mandalay, a monk out on an evening stroll on the U Bein teak bridge says monks and students fought for democracy and human rights in Myanmar but does not comment when asked about citizenship rights for the Rohingya.

Ahead of Monday’s conviction and sentencing of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, by a court in Yangon, several democracy activists and journalists in Myanmar said they stood in solidarity with their two colleagues who were being punished for just being journalists.

But there is little meeting ground between the world and Myanmar on the issue of the Rohingya in the Rakhine state, their persecution, and their flight.

Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has lost much of her global aura for appearing to defend the Myanmar military on the Rohingya issue and for not standing up for the democratic rights of the two journalists but democracy activists said the international onslaught against her was only empowering the military and extremist nationalist forces and endangering their democratic transition.

“The international community blames the lady too much. I understand that they blame the military, but why do they blame the lady,’ said Kyaw Min Swe, Editor of The Voice, a daily newspaper, and Executive Director of the Myanmar Journalism Institute.

Suu Kyi, who holds the office of State Counsellor and foreign minister, but is regarded as the de facto head of the government, is referred to almost by everyone in Myanmar as “the lady”.

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Story first appeared in the Indian Express on 4th Sept 2018

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Mumbai Press Club
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Article posted on 04/09/2018

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