Security Officials, Villagers Executed 10 ARSA-Linked Rohingya: Army

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"We are extremely disappointed that the authorities seek to prosecute Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo under Myanmar's Official Secrets Act", said Stephen J Adler, president and editor-in-chief of Reuters.

Prosecutors said Wednesday that Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo had violated Myanmar's Official Secrets Act - a colonial-era law that bears a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, had worked on Reuters coverage of a crisis in the western state of Rakhine, where - according to United Nations estimates - about 655,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from a fierce military crackdown on militants. "However, it is only the tip of the iceberg and warrants serious independent investigation into what other atrocities were committed amid the ethnic cleansing campaign". But the military has previously denied any wrongdoing by security forces.

Reuters journalist Kyaw Soe Oo gestures as he leaves after a court appearance in Yangon
Reuters journalist Kyaw Soe Oo gestures as he leaves after a court appearance in Yangon

"While they should have been handed over to the police station, the security forces at the time were too busy implementing security measures in the surrounding areas to do so".

The Committee to Protect Journalists also condemned Wednesday's decision to charge the journalists.

The two journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, are due in court tomorrow. Wa Lone's wife gave him a few small pieces of cake that she had brought. They were held incommunicado for two weeks.

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Dozens of journalists wearing black waited outside the court Wednesday to protest the arrest of their colleagues, who were led into the court smiling and giving the thumbs up sign despite heavy handcuffs on their wrists. United Nations human rights investigators and others have been denied access to the areas worst afflicted by violence, while two Reuters journalists who were reported to be investigating evidence of a mass grave at Inn Dinn are now on trial in Rangoon. The government has denied that their arrests represent an attack on press freedom and Suu Kyi's spokesman has said the case would be handled according to the law.

"For democracy to succeed and flourish", the embassy said, "journalists must be able to do their jobs".

"ARSA has.no other option but to combat "Burmese state-sponsored terrorism" against the Rohingya population for the objective of defending, salvaging and protecting the Rohingya community", the group said in a statement signed by leader Ata Ullah and posted on Twitter.

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"It's not as though there are human remains lying around everywhere", said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

The families of the reporters - both of whom had been working on stories about the military's clearance operation in Rakhine state - say they were lured into a trap.

"Rohingyas must not be sent back to the genocide zones of Burma without security and citizenship", said Abdul Malik Mujahid, chairman of Burma Task Force USA, a coalition of 19 US and Canadian Muslim organizations dedicated to advocating for the Rohingya and ending genocide in Myanmar.

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The military has severely restricted access to Rakhine to reporters, aid groups and observers. "If Daw [honorific] Aung San Suu Kyi's government and military can implement the Annan commission's suggestions, the problems in Rakhine State will be resolved, I believe". The army appointed a senior officer to investigate.

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