Monday, 18 November 2019

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Release blast site lensmen: Media watchdogs

Oklahoma City (Mizzima) – Media watchdogs are calling for the immediate release of a journalist and his son, arrested after taking pictures of the site of deadly blasts that occurred during New Year celebrations at a lakeside park in Rangoon last week.

Maung Zeya, 55, and his son, Sithu Zeya, were arrested by authorities in military-ruled Burma without explanation on April 17, two days after the deadly bomb blasts that killed scores of water-festival revellers in the former capital of Rangoon, international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and exiled Burma Media Association (BMA) said in a statement on Wednesday.

It is believed the two were detained for taking photos at the location of last week’s explosions at a water-festival pavilion during celebrations, RSF and the BMA said. “If they were arrested for taking photos of the sites of the recent deadly bombings, they must be freed at once,” the organisations said.

While the authorities have every right to try to track down those responsible for these despicable acts of violence, they must avoid going after the wrong targets by arresting people who were just gathering information, the groups said.

On April 15, three bombs, which authorities believe were grenades, exploded in quick succession at a pandal built for the water festival in Minglar Thaungnyunt township, Rangoon, killing 10 people and injuring more than 170 others.

“Sources told Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association that the police targeted Maung Zeya because he is a former political prisoner,” the groups said.

Maung Zeya, also known by his pen name Thargyi Maung Zeya, is the son of Burmese writer Linyone Maung Maung.

Meanwhile, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma, a Thailand-based Burmese activist group, in a statement on Tuesday expressed concern that military authorities would take advantage of the recent blasts to increase harassment on political dissidents, as has occurred in the past.

The AAPP said authorities had used such incidents to scapegoat dissidents and to increase harassment, including arrests and detention of political activists.

“In Burma, there is a well-established pattern of the wrongful imprisonment of those who speak out against the regime, with the SPDC blaming political dissidents and democracy activists for crimes they did not commit,” the AAPP said, referring to the military junta by its official name, the State Peace and Development Council.

“The scapegoating of political dissidents amounts to a serious abuse of the criminal justice system, prevents proper investigation and ensures the real perpetrators are not brought to justice” AAPP joint secretary Bo Kyi said.

In a separate incident, another series of explosions went off in Northern Burma’s Kachin State at a hydroelectric power project, being built by one of the Burmese junta’s business cronies, Asia World.

The blast in Kachin, however, left few injuries and no reported deaths.


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