How two young reporters shook Myanmar

Photo taken December 11, 2017. REUTERS/Antoni Slodkowski

 

By Tom Lasseter

(Reuters) YANGON, Myanmar - Late in the afternoon of Dec. 12 last year, Wa Lone’s cell phone rang. It was a man named Naing Lin, a lance corporal in Myanmar’s 8th Security Police Battalion.

The policeman urged Wa Lone, a 31-year-old reporter with Reuters, to meet him immediately at the battalion’s barracks on the outskirts of Yangon. Night was falling around the golden spires of the pagodas in this former capital city.

“He told me that if I don’t come now,” Wa Lone would later recall in a Myanmar courtroom, “I might not be able to meet him because he is about to transfer to another region.”

Wa Lone, whose large eyeglasses rest on chubby cheeks, had spent weeks looking into Battalion 8. He was working on a story about the murder of 10 members of the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority during a military operation in western Rakhine State. And he’d gotten his hands on explosive material: photographs of the 10 men before and after they were killed.

One picture showed the men’s bodies, hacked and shot to death, in a shallow grave. Another, taken while they were still alive, showed them on their knees. In the background, milling around with assault rifles, were members of Battalion 8.

Before going to meet the lance corporal, Wa Lone checked in with the Reuters bureau chief, Antoni Slodkowski, who told him to take another reporter along. That man, 27-year-old Kyaw Soe Oo, was visiting from Rakhine State and had recently been hired by the news agency.

Setting out at about 6 p.m., the bureau’s white Nissan SUV crossed an overpass that overlooks Inya Lake, ringed by homes of Myanmar’s elite, including the nation’s de facto leader, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. It was a world beyond the reach of Wa Lone, the son of a rice farmer from a village of a few hundred people.

Read more at: Reuters website

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