Deputy Information Minister Aung Hla Tun said that Mr. Bill Richardson went beyond his mandate concerning the ongoing case of two Reuters reporters and this amounted to contempt of court.
Deputy Minister Aung Hla Tun said that Mr. Bill Richardson, who resigned from the Committee for Implementing Recommendations on Rakhine State, demanded the release of the two detained Reuters reporters at the committee meeting held in Nay Pyi Taw on January 22.
“An attempt to make influence over a case being tried at a court is called contempt of court. All should be convinced that such an act brazenly amounts to contempt of court,” the Deputy Information Minister said to media after the parliament session convened on January 26.
“As far as I know, the authority to make an opinion, discretion and to handle such a case rests only with President of the Union,” the Deputy Minister said.
Voice of America (VOA) Burmese programme reported that Mr. Bill Richardson said to them that he felt extremely sorry after receiving a furious response from State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi when he told her to help these two detained reporters who were arrested on December 12 and charged under the Official Secrets Act.
Former Governor of New Mexico State, former Energy Minister under President Bill Clinton and former US ambassador to the UN, Mr. Richardson resigned from the 10-member Committee for Implementing Recommendations on Rakhine State on the day the committee left for a visit to Rakhine State on January 24 for the first time.
Regarding Mr. Bill Richardson’s resignation, President Office Director General Zaw Htay said, “He discussed the matters unrelated with Rakhine State affairs and these discussions wasted the time of the meeting. The Chairperson of the meeting tried to pacify the situation and tried to refocus on the matters in accordance with the agenda. And then this unfortunate incident of resigning from this committee happened.”
A police officer registered the case against two Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo for allegedly finding classified documents concerning the security situation in Rakhine State in their possession, under section 3 of the Official Secrets Act which carries up to 14 year’s imprisonment if found guilty.
US embassy in Yangon and EU issued press statements expressing their concerns over the arrest and detention of two reporters and also domestic media organizations and CSOs called for immediate release of these two reporters.
Regarding the case of two Reuters reporters, Deputy Information Minister Aung Hla Tun said, “I’d like to request to all who are putting pressure and making demands on this case. Please do not exploit this case for your vested interests if you really want the freedom of these two detained reporters.”
Deputy Minister added that such unnecessary exertion of pressure would be counterproductive.
Two policemen who allegedly handed over these classified documents to two reporters were also arrested and detained in connection with this case and it is still unclear what actions are being taken against them.