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Malaysia 4 June 2004

Call for investigation into kidnapping of exiled Burmese journalist


Malaysian authorities on 24 June released Burmese journalist Sein Mar after holding her for one week. She was handed over to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) while awaiting transfer to another country, probably Norway, along with her seven-year-old daughter.

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) and the Burma Media Association (BMA) called today for an investigation into the kidnapping of exiled Burmese journalist and pro-democracy activist Minn Kyaw in Malaysia on 1 June and his detention for 12 hours by supposed members of the Malaysian police special branch.

He was seized on his way to Kuala Lumpur airport to cover the arrival of Burmese prime minister Gen. Khin Nyunt and interrogated by Burmese agents about his political and journalistic activities in Malaysia.

"It would be shocking if, as well as ceremonially receiving the head of a tyrannical and illegitimate regime, the Malaysian authorities were preventing journalists from doing their work for fear of offending a Burmese general," the two organisations said in a letter to prime minister and internal security minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Another Burmese journalist, Sein Mar , is currently being held in Malaysia for demonstrating against the Burmese regime.

Minn Kyaw’s Malaysian wife, Yassra Sahril, said her husband, who is editor of the magazine Burma Media Link and represents the BMA in Malaysia, had been kidnapped by men who said they were members of the police special branch as he and she were driving to the airport. Two vehicles forced their car to stop. A man ran towards it, opened the door and shouted "We want Minn Kyaw!" He was dragged out, handcuffed and a hood placed over his head. He was taken to a southern suburb of the city and shut up in a container. After several hours without food or water, he was interrogated by a Burmese woman. His captors, who beat him during his detention, asked about his local campaigning for democracy in Burma and his support for Burmese refugees in Malaysia.

The woman criticised him for "insulting Burma" in articles he had written and in comments on local radio stations. She also asked where he got the money to publish Burma Media Link.

His wife filed a complaint with police. The officer in charge of the investigation said the case was a "delicate matter" and refused to say if the kidnapping had been ordered by the authorities, adding only that "the enquiry is continuing." On 3 June, Minn Kyaw’s lawyer was not allowed to be present during a police interview of the journalist.

(JPEG) Journalist Sein Mar (picture), editor of the newsletter Yaung Chee Oo, has been held in Kuala Lumpur since 17 May. She was arrested after demonstrating in front of the Burmese embassy against the "national convention" staged by the Burmese regime. She has UN refugee status in Malaysia and her seven-year-old daughter has been taken in by a local UN centre. Reporters Without Borders and the BMA have called for her release, pointing out that she was simply protesting peacefully in favour of free expression.

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