Canadian photographer in court

A Canadian national arrested last week in eastern Burma’s Karen state for an alleged illegal border crossing appeared at the Myawaddy township court on Friday last week.

Ron Zakreski, 62, was arrested by Burmese authorities on 24 March while taking photos in Wawlay village. A source close to the police in Myawaddy said the Canadian, from Vancouver Island, was charged under the Immigration Act after apparently crossing from Thailand’s Phop Phra township.

“The court will carry out normal procedures and make queries about why he crossed over the border and from where,” said the source, adding that the court was awaiting orders from the Burmese army to decide on the case.

“They will fine him when they receive the order and free him. There are no courts or anything in Wawlay so they could have just fined him there and let him go.”

Little is known of Zakreski, whose sister Brenda described him in an interview with The Candian Press as an “avid traveller and keen photographer”.

The district around Wawlay had been a stronghold of the opposition Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) until Burmese troops overran it earlier this year following months of fighting between the two sides.

The porous border between Karen state and Thailand has to date allowed relatively easy access to conflict zones, but both countries appear to be clamping down on illegal crossings: in January two journalists were arrested by Thai authorities as they crossed back over from Karen state, while in November last year Burmese police detained a Japanese journalist called Toru Yamaji who had illegally entered Myawaddy.

Burma rarely jails foreigners arrested in the country, instead usually opting to deport them quickly to avoid an international backlash That judgement however has not yet come to the aid of Ross Dunkley, the Australian national and former Myanmar Times editor who remains on bail in Rangoon on assault and immigration charges.

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