Detained Canadian en route to Rangoon

A Canadian national facing immigration charges after crossing illegally into eastern Burma is to be transferred to Rangoon in a few days, according a police source in the border town of Myawaddy.

Ron Zakreski was arrested by Burmese authorities on 24 March while taking photos in Wawlay village in Karen state, and will remain at a police in Myawaddy until he is sent to Rangoon.

“Apparently, he will be sent to Rangoon for an investigation by the CID [Criminal Investigation Department]. He will be accompanied by immigration officials,” said the source.

“Actually the police and immigration here wanted to let him go. But township authorities informed authorities [in Naypyidaw] about the case and it caught the attention of senior government leaders” who then ordered the transfer to Rangoon.

The 62-year-old from Vancouver Island had been conducting courses on psychology in Thailand. His sister described him as an “avid traveller and keen photographer”, while people claiming to know him told DVB that he is a “curious and wonderful guy”, and “a real adventurist” who has been travelling in Asia for around 20 years.

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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