Mandalay journalist threatened after reporting on illegal logging
A JOURNALIST who says he was forced to flee his home for fear of reprisals from timber smugglers has accused local authorities in Mandalay Region of not coming to his aid. And another reporter, a freelancer, staged a one-man protest denouncing “corrupt officials”.
Ko Tin Zaw Oo, who works for The Voice Daily in Mandalay Region, says six men came to his home on October 6, the day after the paper carried a story he wrote on illegal sawmills in Thabeikkyin township.
“One day after I covered the story, they came to my home. They told me that they had come from the forest to see me, as I was well-known. Then they told me to follow them. I asked them to wait, as I was writing a story for the newspaper. While they were waiting I called the deputy head of the township police, but he told me to call the chief of police. Just then, a government official turned up, and the men left. My neighbours rallied around the whole night, and the next morning I fled to Mandalay for my safety,” he said.
On October 13, Ko Tin Zaw Oo held a press conference at the Mandalay Media Centre, urging the authorities to conduct an urgent investigation into smuggling in Thabeikkyin township.
“I didn’t get effective help from the local authorities. As my family and I were concerned for our safety, we don’t dare go back home. I’ve alerted several government departments to our situation. The rule of law in Thabeikkyin township is under threat,” he said.
On October 13, freelance correspondent Ko Nanda demonstrated outside Mandalay Region government offices in support of Ko Tin Zaw Oo. He used his solo protest to demand that the regional government conduct a field investigation into the attempted intimidation of the press by people involved in illegal logging, claiming corrupt civil servants were failing to take effective action on smuggling.
“Please take legal action against corrupt civil servants and smugglers here,” he said. “Reporters and others driven from their homes need the protection of the law. Smuggling is rife in Thabeikkyin.”
Residents who asked not to be identified said smuggling of logs, gemstones and cattle, as well as illegal gold mining, was taking place in Thabeikkyin, and the smugglers had threatened townspeople. – Translation by Thiri Min Htun
Ko Nanda staged a solo protest for media freedom outside of the regional government office on October 13.