FCCT Statement on the Detention of Journalists Over Drone Import in Myanmar

The professional membership of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand is concerned by the detention of two journalists, a local fixer, and their driver in Myanmar, after a drone was used near the parliament in Naypyitaw.

Malaysian journalist Mok Choy Lin and Singaporean Lau Hon Meng, who were on assignment for the Turkish state broadcaster TRT, were arrested last Friday, along with their local fixer, Aung Naing Soe, and their driver, U Hla Tin. It is understood they will be charged for importing proscribed equipment into Myanmar, an offence which can carry a sentence of up to three years in prison.

Drones are now widely used by journalists and others to obtain aerial video, and their regulation is an issue that has been debated globally. Drones are openly on sale in Yangon, and while there are local restrictions on their use over specific locations like temples, their general use appears to have been accepted. It is not clear whether the journalists were breaking any laws by using a drone near the parliament, but they do not appear to have been charged for that. All four individualsremain in custody.

The driver and local fixer are unlikely to have been involved with bringing the drone into Myanmar, or to have been operating it. In view of this, the professional membership of the FCCT urges the Myanmar authorities to release Aung Naing Soe and U Hla Tin immediately.

It also appeals to the authorities to treat Mok Choy Lin and Lau Hon Meng leniently, given the lack of clarity over the legality of drone use in Myanmar. Even if such use is judged illegal, it should not carry a custodial sentence.

View the original statement HERE.

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