December 21, 2017 / 2:31 PM / a month ago

Myanmar says two Reuters journalists remanded in custody

YANGON (Reuters) - The two Reuters journalists who were detained in Myanmar on Dec. 12 have appeared in court and been remanded in custody, a police spokesman said on Thursday.

“Yes, they were sent to the court,” said police colonel Myo Thu Soe. “The remand has already been obtained. The case is under the Burma State Secrets Act ... so, for now, they are not allowed to meet with anyone and they are being investigated.”

Reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been in detention for nine days with no detail on where they are being held. They have not had access to visitors or lawyers.

Pan Ei Mon, Wa Lone’s wife, said she was told by police on Thursday that both journalists were well and she was allowed to leave food and clothes for them.

The authorities are investigating whether they violated the country’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

The two journalists had worked on Reuters coverage of a crisis in the western state of Rakhine, where an estimated 655,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from a fierce military crackdown on militants.

The Ministry of Information said last week that Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, had “illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media”.

A spokesman for Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Wednesday that the police had almost completed their investigation, after which a court case would begin and the reporters would have access to a lawyer and be able to meet members of their families.

The spokesman said he was told by the Ministry of Home Affairs and police that the two men were being detained in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, were “in good condition” and had not been subject to “illegal questioning.”A number of governments and human rights and journalist groups have criticised Myanmar’s authorities for holding the pair incommunicado since their arrest, with no access to a lawyer, colleagues and family members.

Myo Thu Soe, the police spokesman, said: “During the investigation by the police force, we are not torturing them nor doing anything that is not in line with human rights.”

Reporting by Shoon Naing; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

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