A Myanmar court on Monday added a new charge against two foreign journalists sentenced earlier this month to two months in prison for illegally using a drone to film near parliament in the country’s capital Naypyidaw, the attorney representing the pair said.
Singaporean journalist Lau Hon Meng, and Malaysian journalist Mok Choy Lin, their interpreter Myanmar interpreter, Aung Naing Soe, and driver, Hla Tin, were arrested on Oct. 27 as they worked on a documentary for Turkish Radio and Television Corporation subsidiary TRT World.
The Zabuthiri township court in Naypyidaw has now charged the two journalists under the country’s Immigration Act for allegedly conducting illegal activities inside Myanmar — an offense punishable by six months to five years in jail.
“They have been charged under section 13(1) of the Immigration Act,” said attorney Khin Maung Zaw. “It means they committed an unlawful action though they entered the country in accordance with the law.”
On Nov. 10, a Myanmar court sentenced the four to two months in prison for violating the 1934 Aircraft Act that allows authorities to pursue legal action against anyone who flies aircraft over “any specified area, either absolutely or at specified times.” The law carries a maximum three-month jail term for offenders.
The four also have been charged under the Import-Export Act for importing a drone, an offense that carries a three-year prison sentence if they are found guilty.
The same court on Monday denied Khin Maung Zaw’s request to have the import charge dropped.
Earlier this month, he said that authorities should have released Aung Naing Soe and Hla Tin because they did not own or operate the drone.
The next court date in the case is scheduled for Dec. 4.
Reported by Kyaw Zaw Win and Aung Theinkha for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.