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Reuters reporters’ trial: Family of police witness evicted

The family of a Burmese policeman who told a court how police planted secret documents on Reuters reporters to “entrap” them was evicted from police housing in the capital Naypyidaw on Saturday, less than 24 hours after his testimony, family members said.

The family has temporarily taken shelter in an apartment belonging to the policeman’s brother, the brother said.

In widely-covered testimony on Friday, Police Captain Moe Yan Naing gave the details of the hours leading up to the Dec. 12 arrest of Reuters reporters Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, and said the police had arranged a “set up”.

A district court in Yangon has been holding hearings since January to decide whether the two should be charged under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

At the time of their arrest, the reporters had been working on a Reuters investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in a village in western Burma’s Rakhine State. The killings happened during an army crackdown that United Nations agencies say has sent nearly 700,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh.

“I got a phone call at 7 a.m. A police second lieutenant who I’m familiar with said, ‘sister you need to move out from the quarters,'” Moe Yan Naing’s unemployed wife Tu Tu, 42, told local media group the Irrawaddy.

“He said ‘you need to move out immediately.’ I said ‘is that so?’ and I become speechless. I didn’t know what to say,” she said in a video clip carried on the Irrawaddy’s Facebook page.

“We are staff family. We don’t have a house yet. Where am I supposed to move with all these items?”.

Moe Yan Naing had told the court he had been under arrest since the night of Dec. 12, accused of violating the Police Disciplinary Act.

Tu Tu said in the video clip she had not had any contact with her husband since he was arrested and appealed to Burmese President Win Myint for help.

Reuters was unable to reach Tu Tu for comment.

Tu Tu posted photographs on Facebook showing bundles, boxes, bags and a mattress stacked up in front of a building.

Other pictures showed men removing chairs and beds from her flat and loading them onto a truck. One of the posts was shared more than 16,000 times and gathered a similar number of reactions.

Moe Yan Naing’s brother Ye Wint Naing confirmed the authenticity of Tu Tu’s Facebook posts in a phone interview with Reuters.


Police spokesman Myo Thu Soe did not respond to several Reuters attempts to reach him for comment on Saturday. He told Reuters on Friday about Moe Yan Naing’s court testimony that it “cannot be assumed as true – we still need to listen to the remaining witnesses so the situation will become clearer”.

Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay also could not be reached for comment on Saturday and did not respond to a text message seeking comment.

Tin Myint, the permanent secretary of the home affairs ministry which oversees the police, could not be reached for comment, and neither could his two deputies.

“They are at my home in Naypyidaw now,” Ye Wint Naing, the brother of Moe Yan Naing, said of the policeman’s family.

He said the couple has two daughters and one son. “I am still helping move her items now,” he said.

Moe Yan Naing told the court on Friday his family lived in housing for police families in Naypyidaw.

Protection Committee for Myanmar Journalists, a Burmese free speech group, issued an appeal to gather funds for Moe Yan Naing’s family and gathered about 1.5 million kyat ($1,127), while Naypyidaw-based journalists gathered another 900,000 kyat – altogether about $1,800 – journalists involved told Reuters.

The journalists said the family has rejected the funds because it wanted to “protect the dignity” of Moe Yan Naing and not accept charity.

Thar Lon Zaung Htet from PCMJ told Reuters the committee has now stopped gathering money and will try to meet the family to hand over the funds.


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