U.S. House calls on Myanmar to release Reuters journalists

By Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives called nearly unanimously on Thursday for the government of Myanmar to release Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were imprisoned one year ago in a landmark free speech case. House members voted by 394 to 1 for a resolution calling for release of Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, who were found guilty in September of violating Myanmar's Official Secrets Act and sentenced to seven years in prison

Reuters December 14, 2018 01:06:22 IST
U.S. House calls on Myanmar to release Reuters journalists

US House calls on Myanmar to release Reuters journalists

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives called nearly unanimously on Thursday for the government of Myanmar to release Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were imprisoned one year ago in a landmark free speech case.

House members voted by 394 to 1 for a resolution calling for release of Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, who were found guilty in September of violating Myanmar's Official Secrets Act and sentenced to seven years in prison. The case has raised questions among a number of political leaders in the United States and Europe, human rights advocates and the United Nations about Myanmar's progress towards democracy.

The measure is non-binding, but intended as a strong message to the government of Myanmar, also known as Burma, as well as to President Donald Trump's administration that members of the U.S. Congress want the two men released.

The resolution also calls the Myanmar military's campaign against the country's Rohingya Muslim minority a genocide. In a report issued on Aug. 27, U.N. investigators said Myanmar’s military carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya with "genocidal intent" and for the first time explicitly called for Myanmar officials to face genocide charges over their campaign.

The U.S. Department of State, which would make an official determination, has not made that official designation using the term genocide.

The Myanmar embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the House of Representatives vote.

The military in Myanmar, where Buddhism is the main religion, has denied past accusations that it had committed genocide against the Rohingya and says its actions were part of a fight against terrorism.

The one "no" vote came from Representative Andy Biggs, a Republican from Arizona. Asked to comment on Biggs’ vote, Daniel Stefanski, a spokesman for the congressman, did not directly address the question but said the Myanmar military’s "continuing oppression of the Rohingya is inhumane" and called on the Trump administration "to use maximum diplomatic pressure to end the genocide and demand the release of the two journalists."

The reporters, who pleaded not guilty, said they were handed papers by police shortly before they were detained, and a police witness testified that they had been set up. They had been investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya men and boys as part of a military response to insurgent attacks.

Lawyers for the two Reuters reporters have lodged an appeal against their conviction and sentence. An appeal hearing is scheduled for Dec. 24.

Among other things, the House resolution also condemns attacks against civilians by the Burmese military and calls on Trump to impose additional sanctions on senior members of the Burmese military and security forces it says are responsible for human rights abuses.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Mary Milliken and Frances Kerry)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.