11 May 2021: The Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M) says that three DVB reporters and two associates who fled violence and persecution in Myanmar must not be forced back by the Thai authorities. To do so would violate international law.
On 9 May, three reporters from the Myanmar news outlet the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) and two associates were arrested in northern Thailand after having fled across the border from Myanmar. The five have been charged with illegal entry into Thailand and are awaiting trial.
“To forcefully send the three DVB reporters and their associates back to Myanmar, where they would face certain arrest and persecution, would be a violation of the customary international legal principle of non-refoulement,” says SAC-M.
On 1 February of this year, the Myanmar military attempted to seize control of the country by launching a coup but was met with massive nationwide peaceful protests and other non-violent forms of civil disobedience that prevented the coup from succeeding.
The military responded by launching a nationwide systematic campaign of terror that has steadily escalated in intensity and is designed to force the population into submitting to military rule. Nearly 800 people have been murdered and nearly 4,000 arbitrarily detained by the security forces, including journalists. Many people have died while in military custody showing signs of torture. Many more have been subjected to beatings and other forms of extreme violence.
Journalists have been systematically targeted as the military tries to suppress information circulating about its violent onslaught against civilians up and down the country. Freedom of the press, essential to peoples’ right to information, is under severe attack.
More than 70 journalists have been arrested since the start of the coup. In March, the military revoked the licenses of all remaining independent media outlets. Despite the danger, the DVB reporters continued to carry out their work as journalists, reporting and informing people on what is happening in their country.
“The response from the Thai authorities should not even be in question,” says SAC-M. “The five should be released from detention and the charges against them dropped. They should be granted protection, reassurance and security, with access to their fundamental human rights. Given the situation, this basic response should be taken as granted.”