UN rights experts hail Myanmar journalists’ release

            By Erdogan Cagatay Zontur</p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) - UN human rights experts welcomed on Wednesday the release of two Reuters journalists in Myanmar but said they have serious concerns about the judicial process in the country and the fact that their guilty verdicts still stand.</p>  <p>Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, who had been detained since December 2017, were each sentenced to seven years in prison last September for allegedly breaching a colonial-era law by investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya men in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in 2017.</p>  <p>“While it is good news that Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been reunited with their families and will not have to carry out the remainder of their sentences, their convictions under the Official Secrets Act have not been withdrawn and they should never have been prosecuted in the first place,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye.</p>  <p>  “We remain terribly concerned about the state of media freedom and the democratic space in Myanmar. The authorities have a considerable way to go to in law, policy and institution-building to ensure a minimum level of democratic space, which is particularly important in the lead-up to national elections next year,” the statement said.</p>  <p>  The two Reuters journalists were among 6,520 inmates released Tuesday under a third round of pardons by Myanmar President Win Myint to celebrate the traditional New Year, which began April 17.</p>  <p>&quot;I’m really happy and excited to see my family and my colleagues,&quot; Wa Lone told a crowd of reporters after his release.</p>  <p>    <p> Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.</p>  <p>According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.</p>  <p>Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).</p>  <p>The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- and brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces. </p>  <p>In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity and genocidal intent.

US welcomes release of Reuters journalists in Myanmar

             By Umar Farooq</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S. on Tuesday welcomed Myanmar's decision to release two Reuters journalists who had been imprisoned for more than 500 days for investigating the deaths of Rohingya men.</p>  <p>Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, who had been detained since December 2017, were each sentenced to seven years in prison last September for their alleged breach of a colonial-era law for investigating the killing of 10 men in Myanmar’s Rakhine State in 2017.</p>  <p>&quot;The United States welcomes the decision in Burma to release @Reuters journalists Wa Lone &amp; Kyaw Soe Oo, freeing them to return to their families following over 500 days of imprisonment,&quot; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a tweet. &quot;We hope to see the release of other imprisoned journalists and greater freedom of expression.&quot;</p>  <p>Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.</p>  <p>According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.</p>  <p>Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).</p>  <p>The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- and brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.</p>  <p>In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity and genocidal intent.</p>  <p>The two journalists were among 6,520 inmates released Tuesday under a third round of pardons by Myanmar President Win Myint to celebrate the traditional New Year which began April 17.</p>  <p>&quot;I am very excited to reunite with family,&quot; Wa Lone told a crowd of reporters after his release.

UPDATE – Reuters journalists freed from Myanmar prison

ADDS STATEMENTS FROM JOURNALISTS, FAMILY, RIGHTS GROUPS

By Kyaw Ye Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar (AA) – Two Reuters journalists in Myanmar who had been jailed for exposing a massacre of Rohingya were freed early Tuesday after spending more than 500 days in prison.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, who had been detained since December 2017, were among 6,520 inmates released under a third round of pardons by President Win Myint to celebrate the traditional New Year which began on April 17.

“I am very excited to reunite with family,” Wa Lone told a crowd of reporters.

The duo, after spending a short time talking to colleagues and well-wishers in front of Yangon’s infamous Insein Prison, headed to the Reuters office in downtown Yangon where their wives and kids are waiting for them.

Thet Su Win, wife of Kyaw Soe Oo, told Anadolu Agency that they have been waiting for this moment for a long time.

“This is one of very few best moments in my life,” she said by phone.

The two were each sentenced to seven years in prison in September 2018 over their alleged breach of a colonial-era law for investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya men in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in 2017.

  • Concern over press freedom

Several local and international rights groups voiced concern over declining press freedom in Myanmar although they welcomed release of the Reuters journalists.

Amnesty International’s East and Southeast Asia director Nicholas Bequelin described the case against the Reuters journalists “a travesty of justice from start to finish”.

“They should never have spent a day in prison,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

He warned that Myanmar still retains a range of repressive laws which have been constantly used to detain journalists, activists and any perceived critic of the authorities.

“Until these laws are repealed, journalists and activists remain under a permanent threat of detention and arrest,” he said.

Human Rights Watch said the crisis is not over for Myanmar journalists and bloggers who are facing criminal charges for criticizing military and government led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.

“Myanmar's faltering respect for media freedom indicates the dire situation facing human rights and democracy," said deputy Asia director Phil Robertson.

Myanmar authorities last month engaged in a series of arrest and charges of peaceful critics of the military and government, according to the watchdog.

  • Rohingya persecution

The UK-based Burmese Rohingya Organization said that Rohingya community stands with Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.

“The only people that should be locked up for the Rohingya genocide are those that committed it, not those that helped expose it,” said its founder Tun Khin in a statement.

Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."

Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.

The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings – including of infants and young children – and brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.

In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity and genocidal intent.

Reuters journalists freed from Myanmar prison

            By Kyaw Ye Lynn</p>    <p><p>YANGON, Myanmar (AA) – Two Reuters journalists in Myanmar who had been jailed for exposing a massacre of Rohingya were freed early Tuesday after spending more than 500 days in prison.</p>  <p>  <p>Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were among 6,520 inmates released under a third round of pardons by President Win Myint to celebrate the traditional New Year, which began on April 17. </p>  <p>  <p>Wa Lone’s wife, Pan Ei Mon, confirmed the release of the journalists to Anadolu Agency.</p>  <p>  <p>&quot;We are now with them. They are freed,&quot; she said by phone.</p>  <p>  <p>The two were arrested in December 2017 and each sentenced to seven years in prison in September 2018 over their alleged breach of a colonial-era law for investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya men in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in 2017.</p>  <p>  <p>Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.</p>  <p>  <p>According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.</p>  <p>Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).</p>  <p>More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the report, titled &quot;Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience.&quot;</p>  <p>Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.</p>  <p>The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings – including of infants and young children – and brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.</p>  <p>In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity and genocidal intent.

Bangladeş'ten Myanmar'a Arakanlı Müslümanların dönüşünün kolaylaştırılması çağrısı

DAKKA (AA) – Bangladeş Myanmar'ı, baskı ve zulümden kaçarak ülkeye sığınan Arakanlı Müslümanların topraklarına geri dönmeleri için temel haklarını sağlamaya ve gönüllü olarak geri dönmelerini teşvik edecek olumlu adımlar atmaya çağırdı.

Bangladeş Dışişleri Bakanlığından yapılan açıklamada, ülkelerini terk etmek zorunda kalan Arakanlı Müslümanların topraklarına geri dönüşünü sağlamak için iki ülke arasında oluşturulan Ortak Çalışma Grubunun Myanmar'ın başkenti Nepido'da düzenlenen dördüncü toplantısında, Myanmar'a, Arakanlı mültecilerin temel haklarının sağlanması çağrısında bulunulduğu bildirildi.

Açıklamada, Bangladeş'in, geri dönenlerin hareket serbestisi ve güvenliğini garanti altına almak da dahil, haklarını sağlamak için yasal ve idari engellerin kaldırılmasının vurguladığı aktarıldı.

Bangladeş'in ayrıca Güneydoğu Asya Ülkeler Birliği (ASEAN) ve ilgili ortaklar da dahil uluslararası toplumun, Arakan eyaletindeki durumu iyileştirme konusuna daha fazla katılımına izin verilmesi gerektiğine dikkat çekilen açıklamada, daha fazla güven ortamı oluşturmak adına bu aktörler arasındaki eylemlerin koordinasyonu için öneride bulunulduğu ifade edildi.

Açıklamada, iki tarafın da Bangladeş'e sığınan Arakanlı Müslümanların topraklarına geri dönebilmeleri için vatandaşlık doğrulama sürecini hızlandırma konusunda mutabık kaldığı kaydedildi.

  • Arakanlı Müslümanlara etnik temizlik

Myanmar'da 1970'lerden bu yana zulüm ve sistematik baskıya uğrayan Arakanlı Müslüman nüfusun büyük çoğunluğu, topraklarını terk ederek bölge ülkelere göç etti.

Ülkede 1982'de kabul edilen yasayla vatandaşlık haklarını kaybeden Arakanlı Müslümanlar, "devletsiz" sayılıyor. Birleşmiş Milletler (BM) tarafından "eziyet gören dini azınlık" olarak kabul edilen Arakanlı Müslümanlar, hem şiddet olaylarına hem de yasal, ekonomik ve toplumsal ayrımcılığa maruz kalıyor.

Arakan'da 2012'de Budistler ile Müslümanlar arasında çatışmalar çıkmış, olaylarda çoğu Müslüman binlerce kişi katledilmiş, yüzlerce ev ve iş yeri ateşe verilmişti.

Arakan'daki sınır karakollarına 25 Ağustos 2017'de düzenlenen eş zamanlı saldırıları gerekçe gösteren Myanmar ordusu ve Budist milliyetçiler, kitlesel şiddet eylemlerini başlatmıştı.

BM'ye göre, 25 Ağustos 2017'den sonra Arakan'daki baskı ve zulümden kaçıp Bangladeş'e sığınanların sayısı 745 bine ulaştı. Uluslararası insan hakları kuruluşları, yayımladıkları uydu görüntüleriyle yüzlerce köyün yok edildiğini kanıtladı.

Bangladeş, ülkedeki Arakanlı mültecilerin yurtlarına dönüşü için Myanmar ile vardığı anlaşmayı uygulamaktan vazgeçerken, uluslararası medya ve yardım kuruluşlarının Arakan bölgesine girişini ciddi oranda kısıtlayan Myanmar hükümeti ise Arakanlı Müslümanların dönüşlerine ilişkin verdiği sözleri yerine getirmedi.

BM ve uluslararası insan hakları örgütleri, Arakanlı Müslümanlara yönelik şiddeti "etnik temizlik" ya da "soykırım" olarak adlandırıyor.

İnsan hakları örgütleri, Arakanlı Müslümanların güvenli ortam sağlanmadan Myanmar'a dönmelerinin yeni bir etnik temizlik kampanyasına yol açacağı endişesini taşıyor.

Myanmar ve Bangladeş hükümetleri, Arakanlı Müslümanların topraklarına dönüşü için 23 Kasım 2017'de bir anlaşma imzalamıştı.

Anlaşmaya göre, Myanmar'a dönmek isteyenler, Bangladeş'e geçmeden önce Myanmar'da yaşadıklarına dair belge sunmak zorunda ancak 1982'de vatandaşlık hakları ellerinden alınan Arakanlı Müslümanların Myanmar'da kayıtlarının bulunmaması bu süreçte ciddi sorun yaratıyor. Anlaşmada, Bangladeş'e geçen Arakanlı Müslümanlara bu ülkede BM tarafından verilen belgelerin de Myanmar hükümetinin "onay" sürecinden geçmesi gerektiği belirtiliyor.

Bangladesh urges Myanmar to ease Rohingya’s return

            By SM Najmus Sakib</p>  <p>DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) - Bangladesh has urged Myanmar to ensure the basic rights of Rohingya returnees and to take positive steps towards a “well-defined time-bound pathway” to citizenship that would encourage them to return voluntarily.</p>  <p>The suggestions were made Friday at the fourth meeting of the Joint Working Group on the repatriation of displaced Myanmar residents which was held in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw. </p>  <p>Mahbub Uz Zaman, secretary (Asia &amp; Pacific) at Bangladesh’s foreign ministry, and U Myint Thu, permanent secretary at Myanmar’s foreign ministry, led their respective countries at the meeting, according to a statement from Bangladesh’s foreign ministry.</p>  <p>Bangladesh particularly stressed the need to remove legal and administrative barriers to ensure the rights of the returnees, including freedom of movement and guaranteeing their safety and security, said the statement.</p>  <p>The two sides also agreed to speed up the verification process of the Myanmar nationals.

Bangladesh also emphasized the need for allowing greater engagement of the international community — including ASEAN and interested partners — in improving the situation on the ground in Rakhine state and proposed an appropriate mechanism for the coordination of actions among those actors to create greater confidence.

Bangladesh Ambassador to Myanmar Manjurul Karim Khan Chowdhury told the local Dhaka Tribune daily that the meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere and both sides were positive.

Myanmar also appeared to be receptive to Bangladesh’s proposal for a visit by a team from Naypyidaw to the Rohingya settlements in Cox’s Bazar to speak to them directly about the conditions in Rakhine, the daily added.

Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."

Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.

The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings – including of infants and young children – and brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.

In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity and genocidal intent.

Myanmar ordusundan yargısız infaz

ANKARA (AA) – Myanmar askerlerinin, Arakan eyaletinde gözaltına alınan 6 kişiyi vurarak öldürdüğü bildirildi.

BBC'nin ve yerel basının haberlerine göre, Myanmar ordusu, Arakan'da bir köy okulunda gözaltında tutulan 200'ü aşkın kişi arasından en az 6'sının vurularak öldürüldüğünü açıkladı.

Ordu sözcüsü, vurulan kişilerin askerlerin silahlarını almaya çalıştığını savundu.

Gözaltına alınanların, eyalette özerklik talebiyle silahlı eylemler düzenleyen Budist Arakan Ordusu örgütüyle bağlantıları olup olmadığı yönünde sorgulandığı belirtildi. Söz konusu örgüt, daha önce Kaçin ve Şan eyaletlerinde de Myanmar askerleriyle çatışmalara girmişti.

Myanmar ordusu, ocakta 13 polisin öldüğü, 9'unun yaralandığı saldırıdan sonra Arakan ordusunu terörist örgüt ilan etmişti.

Eyalette son dönemde örgüt üyeleri ve askerler arasında çıkan çatışmalar nedeniyle 30 binden fazla Budist sivilin yerlerinden olduğu ifade ediliyor.

  • Arakanlı Müslümanlara etnik temizlik

Arakan'da 2012'de Budistler ile Müslümanlar arasında çatışmalar çıkmış, olaylarda çoğu Müslüman binlerce kişi katledilmiş, yüzlerce ev ve iş yeri ateşe verilmişti.

Eyalette sınır karakollarına 25 Ağustos 2017'de düzenlenen eş zamanlı saldırıları gerekçe gösteren Myanmar ordusu ve Budist milliyetçiler, kitlesel şiddet eylemlerini başlatmıştı.

BM'ye göre, 25 Ağustos 2017'den sonra Arakan'daki baskı ve zulümden kaçıp Bangladeş'e sığınanların sayısı 745 bine ulaştı. Uluslararası insan hakları kuruluşları, yayımladıkları uydu görüntüleriyle yüzlerce köyün yok edildiğini kanıtladı.

Bangladeş, ülkedeki Arakanlı mültecilerin yurtlarına dönüşü için Myanmar ile vardığı anlaşmayı uygulamaktan vazgeçerken, uluslararası medya ve yardım kuruluşlarının Arakan bölgesine girişini ciddi oranda kısıtlayan Myanmar hükümeti ise Arakanlı Müslümanların dönüşlerine ilişkin verdiği sözleri yerine getirmedi.

BM ve uluslararası insan hakları örgütleri, Arakanlı Müslümanlara yönelik şiddeti "etnik temizlik" ya da "soykırım" olarak adlandırıyor.

İnsan hakları örgütleri, Arakanlı Müslümanların güvenli ortam sağlanmadan Myanmar'a dönmelerinin yeni bir etnik temizlik kampanyasına yol açacağı endişesini taşıyor.

Arakan sorunu ekonomik çıkarların kıskacında

ANKARA (AA) – Kanada Arakan Kalkınma İnisiyatifi (CRDI) Yönetim Kurulu Üyesi Yuriko Cowper-Smith, dünya ülkelerinin bölgedeki ekonomik çıkarları nedeniyle Arakanlı Müslümanlara yönelik katliamlara ve insan hakları ihlallerine sessiz kalmayı tercih ettiğini belirtti.

Konuyla ilgili AA muhabirine değerlendirmelerde bulunan Cowper-Smith, Çin, Hindistan, Rusya, İsrail ve Suudi Arabistan gibi ülkelerin Myanmar hükümeti ile kurduğu stratejik ekonomik ilişkiler nedeniyle Arakan'da yaşananları uluslararası gündeme taşımak istemediğini ifade etti.

Bölgenin iki ekonomik gücü Hindistan ve Çin'in Myanmar'da stratejik ekonomik çıkarları olduğuna dikkati çeken Cowper-Smith, "Myanmar hükümeti yakın zaman önce Pekin yönetimi ile Çin-Myanmar Ekonomik Koridoru (CMEC) projesi için anlaşmaya vardı. Proje, Çin'in Kuşak ve Yol İnisiyatifinin parçası olacak." dedi.

Çin'in Yunnan eyaletinden başlayıp Myanmar'ın Mandalay ve Yangon kentlerinden geçecek kara yolu projesinin Arakan eyaleti kıyısındaki Kyaukphyu Özel Ekonomik Bölgesine (SEZ) ulaştığını kaydeden Cowper-Smith, "Ne Hindistan ne de Çin herhangi bir uluslararası müdahaleyle statükoyu bozmak istiyor." ifadesini kullandı.

Cowper-Smith, Çin'in bölgeyle bu stratejik bağının Birleşmiş Milletler Güvenlik Konseyinin (BMGK) aracılığıyla bir çözüme ulaşılmasını olanaksız kıldığını vurguladı.

Suudi Arabistan gibi nüfusunun çoğunluğu Müslüman bir ülkenin bile Myanmar hükümetiyle stratejik ekonomik ilişkileri olduğuna dikkati çeken Cowper-Smith, bu durumun Riyad yönetiminin Myanmar'a karşı tavır almasını engellediğinin altını çizdi.

Cowper-Smith, küresel İslamofobik iklimin ve terör korkusunun yanı sıra uluslararası gözlemcilerin Arakan eyaletine erişiminin olmamasının da yaşananları dünya kamuoyunun gündeminden uzaklaştırdığına işaret etti.

  • Arakanlı Müslümanlara etnik temizlik

Arakan'da 2012'de Budistler ile Müslümanlar arasında çatışmalar çıkmış, olaylarda çoğu Müslüman binlerce kişi katledilmiş, yüzlerce ev ve işyeri ateşe verilmişti.

Arakan'daki sınır karakollarına 25 Ağustos 2017'de düzenlenen eş zamanlı saldırıları gerekçe gösteren Myanmar ordusu ve Budist milliyetçiler, kitlesel şiddet eylemlerini başlatmıştı.

BM'ye göre, 25 Ağustos 2017'den sonra Arakan'daki baskı ve zulümden kaçıp Bangladeş'e sığınanların sayısı 745 bine ulaştı. Uluslararası insan hakları kuruluşları, yayımladıkları uydu görüntüleriyle yüzlerce köyün yok edildiğini kanıtladı.

Bangladeş, ülkedeki Arakanlı mültecilerin yurtlarına dönüşü için Myanmar ile vardığı anlaşmayı uygulamaktan vazgeçerken, uluslararası medya ve yardım kuruluşlarının Arakan bölgesine girişini ciddi oranda kısıtlayan Myanmar hükümeti ise Arakanlı Müslümanların dönüşlerine ilişkin verdiği sözleri yerine getirmedi.

BM ve uluslararası insan hakları örgütleri, Arakanlı Müslümanlara yönelik şiddeti "etnik temizlik" ya da "soykırım" olarak adlandırıyor.

İnsan hakları örgütleri, Arakanlı Müslümanların güvenli ortam sağlanmadan Myanmar'a dönmelerinin yeni bir etnik temizlik kampanyasına yol açacağı endişesini taşıyor.

Myanmar troops shoot dead 7 civilians: Lawmaker

                       By Kyaw Ye Lynn</p>    <p>YANGON, Myanmar (AA) - Myanmar military on Thursday shot dead seven civilians, who were among many villagers detained for interrogation in the country’s Rakhine state, a lawmaker said.</p>    <p>The military earlier this week announced that it rounded up several hundred people in several villages in Rakhine state’s Yathay Taung Township for questioning for their alleged ties to the Arakan Army (AA), an ethnic rebel group.</p>    <p>It also said 275 men were held for interrogation in Kyauk Tan village in Yathay taung Township.</p>    <p>Soldiers on Thursday opened fire as a clash erupted with the detained villagers, according to Khim Maung Lat, a member of the country’s upper house of the parliament.</p>    <p>“Seven villagers were shot dead and eight others were seriously injured,” he told Anadolu Agency by phone.</p>    <p>“Before this accident, four civilians were also killed during the interrogation in other villages,” he said.</p>    <p>The lawmaker said the military has ignored the request made by regional parliament to hand over the detainees to police.</p>    <p>“Civilians are being killed. It is unacceptable,” he added.</p>    <p>The International Committee of the Red Cross and Myanmar Red Cross said in a joint statement on Thursday they had transferred three seriously injured patients to hospital in Rakhine state capital Sittwe, as well as two other “civilians” to local hospital in Yathay Taung.</p>    <p>Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, a military spokesman, has confirmed the killing of six civilians.</p>    <p>According to him, the villagers attempt to seize weapons and harm the security forces during the interrogation.

Myanmar: Reuters reporters excluded from mass pardons

By Kyaw Ye Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar (AA) – Two Reuters journalists who had been detained in Myanmar for their coverage of rights violations in the western Rakhine state were excluded from an upcoming pardon, their lawyers said on Friday.

Myanmar recently announced two rounds of presidential pardons in wake of the country’s mid-April new year, bringing amnesty for more than 16,000 prisoners.

Further releases are planned, the presidency said in a statement without giving further details.

However, two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, remain behind bars in Yangon’s infamous Insein Prison, lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told Anadolu Agency.

On Monday, the military-controlled Home Affairs Ministry said there were no political prisoners in Myanmar, but only people sentenced under the country’s existing laws and penal code for criminal acts.

However, the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (Burma), (AAPP Burma), based in the western Mae Sot city of Thailand said at least 45 political prisoners remained convicted as of March since current government took office in 2016.

Another 94 await trial in prison, while 225 others are on bail pending trial, said the human rights NGO.

On Friday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch called on the country’s parliament to repeal legislation criminalizing peaceful expression after a recent series of arrests of peaceful critics of the army and government.

"During military rule, Aung San Suu Kyi and many current lawmakers fought for free expression, yet now the NLD [National League for Democracy political party] majority in parliament has taken almost no steps to repeal or amend abusive laws still being used to jail critics," said the group’s Asia director Brad Adams.

Adams underlined that numerous governments and donors had made freedom for political prisoners the "cornerstone of their policy".

"At a time when Myanmar’s transformation to a rights-respecting democracy hangs in the balance, where are those same voices?" he said.