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Suu Kyi sentence puts spotlight on Myanmar's detained thousands

·3 min read
Protest against military coup in Yangon

(Reuters) - Deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was sentenced to four years in prison on Monday, later cut to two, is just one of thousands held in the country since the military seized power 10 months ago.

Each day in Myanmar, police and soldiers arrest those who dare to demand democracy be restored. Many are beaten, some tortured and killed, according to the United Nations and rights groups.

The junta says those arrested are allied with "terrorists" intent on harming the country.

The media is not exempt from the crackdown. On Sunday, journalists Hmu Yadana Khet Moh Moh Tun and Kuang Sett Lin were arrested while covering a protest that turned deadly when security forces drove a vehicle into the crowd, killing five.

They were both injured and are being held at military-run hospitals. It is unclear what they are charged with.

"I heard his backbone was badly affected and broken. There are wounds on his face too. I haven't been able to meet him so far," a family member of photojournalist Kuang Sett Lin, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters.

"The whole family is feeling devastated and in agony. I want him to be free as soon as possible."

The family of videojournalist Hmu Yadana Khet Moh Moh Tun were not allowed to see her either.

"We can't talk with her by phone as well," said a relative, who asked that her identity be withheld.

"The doctor ... said that they would tell me about my sister's condition at the gate of the hospital anytime."

A spokesperson for the junta did not respond to calls seeking comment.

'HORRIFYING PLIGHT'

Suu Kyi, 76, was jailed for four years on Monday for incitement and COVID-19 violations, a sentence halved by the junta leader on humanitarian grounds.

A minister on Tuesday said Myanmar's courts were impartial and Suu Kyi was not above the law.

The Nobel laureate is the most famous, and the first, of thousands arrested since the Feb. 1 coup. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a monitoring group cited by the United Nations, says 10,700 civilians have since been detained and 1,300 killed in the crackdown.

The military has outlawed AAPP and says it is biased and uses exaggerated data.

The journalists' employer, Myanmar Pressphoto Agency, said they had a right to be at the protest.

"(They) were just arrested while doing their job," it said in a statement.

Myanmar's military has been condemned around the world for its treatment of detainees, who rights groups say are denied due process and subjected to harsh conditions.

Amnesty International said those thousands held should not be forgotten.

"The sham verdict against Aung San Suu Kyi should not overshadow the horrifying plight of many others languishing behind bars in some of Myanmar's most notorious prisons merely for joining peaceful protests," said Emerlynne Gil, its Deputy Regional Director for Research.

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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