Myanmar journalists who fled to Thailand in 'safe' third country

Three Myanmar journalists who faced deportation after fleeing to Thailand to escape a military crackdown have been granted asylum in a third country, their employer said Monday.

The journalists, who worked for the news site Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), were arrested along with two Myanmar activists in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai in May and charged with illegal entry.

All five have been “given asylum in a third country and left Thailand recently”, DVB’s chief editor Aye Chan Naing said in a statement Monday.

Details on which country had taken in the group would be shared later, he said. 

“We like to thank everyone in Thailand and around the world that helped to make their safe passage possible,” he said, adding that the group would continue their work for the outlet.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, triggering a mass uprising as large swathes of the population take to the streets.

The junta has responded with force — shooting protesters, arresting suspected dissidents in night raids, targeting journalists and shutting down news outlets.

Thailand had said it was seeking a “humanitarian” solution to avoid deporting the group back to Myanmar, where their employer had warned their lives would be “in serious danger”.

A well-known news organisation within Myanmar, DVB started as an exile media outlet during the previous junta, broadcasting uncensored reports on TV and radio.

It moved into the country in 2012, a year after the military dictatorship loosened its grip, but had its broadcast licence revoked in March, sending its journalists into hiding.

Despite this setback, it has continued to report, posting regular Facebook updates — as well as broadcasting on satellite TV — about the daily protests and crackdowns.

Last week another of its journalists was jailed for two years in the southern city of Myeik under a colonial-era law that criminalises encouraging dissent against the military.

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