Suu Kyi defends jail sentences for 2 journalists in Myanmar

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi addresses participants during the opening session of the World Economic Forum on ASEAN Wednesday Sept. 12 2018 in Hanoi Vietnam. The World Economic Forum has attracted hundreds of participants for the three-day forum wit

Reuters journalists Wa Lone (L) speaks to journalists outside the northern district court in Yangon on January 23, 2018.

Ms. Suu Kyi was also asked about calls made by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence-as well as other Western governments and human-rights groups-for Myanmar to release two Reuters journalists.

Suu Kyi, a onetime democracy icon, sparked global ire for standing by the armed forces.

Minister for International Cooperation Kyaw Tin, who is accompanying Suu Kyi at a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Vietnam, said "She has no plan to go there". "The case was held in open court".

"She fails to understand that real "rule of law" means respect for evidence presented in court, actions brought based on clearly defined and proportionate laws, and independence of the judiciary from influence by the government or security forces", he said.

Her comments drew an indignant response from rights groups who have urged the Nobel Laureate to press for a presidential pardon for the reporters.

But she added that the two journalists "have every right to appeal the judgement and point out why the judgement is wrong if they consider it wrong".

The convictions came amid mounting pressure on Myanmar over a security crackdown sparked by attacks by Rohingya Muslim insurgents on security forces in Rakhine State in west Myanmar in August 2017.

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A United Nations human rights team report has recommended senior Burmese commanders be prosecuted for genocide and other crimes. However, on Thursday, she suggested this was a misreading.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum on ASEAN in Hanoi, she said "There are of course ways in which, with hindsight, the situation could've been handled better".

But she also appeared to turn responsibility onto neighbouring Bangladesh for failing to start the repatriation of the almost one million-strong Rohingya refugee community to Myanmar.

Although Myanmar and Bangladesh signed an agreement past year to begin repatriating willing Rohingya back to Rakhine, Aung San Suu Kyi blamed Bangladesh for having stymied the process, which she said was supposed to have begun in January.

The violence in Rakhine has eased but Myanmar now has to deal with its aftermath, especially the repatriation of the Rohingyas.

Aid workers have also said it is not safe for refugees to return yet.

The jailing of the Reuters reporters has sent a chill through Myanmar's nascent media scene. The two were sentenced for possession of police documents while investigating the killing of Rohingya Muslims.

The task is complicated further as the UN's rights arm is expected to heavily censure Myanmar again in the coming days when it publishes in full the findings of its investigation into atrocities against the Rohingya. It decried "the instrumentalisation of the law and of the courts by the government and military in what constitutes a political campaign against independent journalism".

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