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Congressman Joaquin Castro

Representing the 20th District of Texas

ASEAN Co-Chairs to Myanmar: Commute Journalists Sentencing for Reporting on Rohingya Massacres

Sep 5, 2018
Press Release

Bipartisan Members Urge Aung San Suu Kyi to Support Free and Independent Press, Principles of Democracy 

WASHINGTON—Founding co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on ASEAN and members of the House Foreign Affairs Committees Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and Congresswoman Ann Wagner (MO-02) today urged Myanmar to commute the sentences of two Reuters journalists who have been sentenced to seven years of jail time for investigating the Rohingya massacres. In a letter to Aung San Suu Kyi, the members urged the State Counsellor to adhere to the principles of democracy, including a free and independent press that can report on government abuses such as the Rohingya massacres.  

“We are writing to urge you to publicly recommend the President of the Union of Myanmar commute the sentences of the journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who otherwise would serve seven years in jail for investigating the massacre of Rohingya in your country,” the Members wrote.

The Members continued: “As the co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on ASEAN, we support the principles of democracy as enshrined in the ASEAN Charter agreed to by the ten member nations of ASEAN in 2007, including by the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. At the heart of every democracy is a free and independent press, one that is insulated from political interference and is empowered to check government abuses.”

Full text of the letter follows and can be found here.

September 4, 2018

Honorable Aung San Suu Kyi

State Counsellor

The Republic of the Union of Myanmar

Dear Ms. State Counsellor,

We are writing to urge you to publicly recommend the President of the Union of Myanmar commute the sentences of the journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who otherwise would serve seven years in jail for investigating the massacre of Rohingya in your country. These two individuals were arrested, tried, and sentenced for their commitment to a central role of a free press – speaking truth to power. For their reporting and for their courage, Mr. Wa Lone and Mr. Kyaw Soe Oo were awarded the 2017 James Foley Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism by the prestigious Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

As the co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on ASEAN, we support the principles of democracy as enshrined in the ASEAN Charter agreed to by the ten member nations of ASEAN in 2007, including by the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. At the heart of every democracy is a free and independent press, one that is insulated from political interference and is empowered to check government abuses.

The international community is aghast at the events that have unfolded in your country in the last year. The ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya and the documented killings of innocent men, women, and children is compounded by these prosecutions that seek to cover up the full scope of what has transpired.

We recall your long struggle for democracy for all Burmese citizens, your years of imprisonment and your leadership during adversity. We ask you to demonstrate that commitment to democracy by supporting a free press and requesting the President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar commute the sentences of these two individuals. We also urge you to make genuine efforts to hold the military and others accountable for their crimes against the Rohingya people and facilitating a return to the Rohingya driven out of Burma through this violence.

Sincerely,

Joaquin Castro                                               

Co-Chair                                                        

Congressional Caucus on ASEAN                

Ann Wagner

Co-Chair                                                        

Congressional Caucus on ASEAN                

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