headshot of Myanmar journalist Myat Thu Tan
Myanmar journalist Myat Thu Tan was arrested in 2022. His body was found buried in a Rakhine State military camp, bearing signs of torture, on February 5, 2024. (Photo: Western News)

Myanmar journalist Myat Thu Tan killed in military custody

Bangkok, February 16, 2024—Myanmar authorities must conduct a credible independent investigation into the killing of journalist Myat Thu Tan and bring the perpetrators to swift and full justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Friday.

Myat Thu Tan, a contributor to the local online outlet Western News who also had reported for the independent Democratic Voice of Burma, the shuttered 7Day News newspaper, and the banned newspaper The Voice, was shot and killed on January 31 while in military custody in the town of Mrauk-U in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State, according to news reports and Western News editor-in-chief Wunna Khwar Nyo, who spoke with CPJ.

The journalist’s body was found along with six other political detainees buried in a bomb shelter in the Light Infantry Battalion 378’s camp, after it was overrun on February 5 by the insurgent Arakan Army, which is fighting military forces in the area, those sources said, adding that the bodies, including Myat Thu Tan’s, showed signs of torture.  

“We strongly condemn the murder of journalist Myat Thu Tan and call on Myanmar authorities to identify and prosecute those responsible,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “A culture of impunity has taken deep root in Myanmar since the 2021 democracy-suspending coup. The junta must stop killing, and start protecting, journalists.”

Myanmar’s military government announced this week that it plans to conscript 60,000 people, suggesting that it is coming under pressure from pro-democracy fighters since seizing power from Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government in February 2021.

Myat Thu Tan, also known as Phoe Thiha, was arrested at his home in Mrauk-U on September 22, 2022, and held in pre-trial detention under Section 505(a) of the penal code, a broad provision that criminalizes incitement and the dissemination of false news, for critical posts he made on his Facebook page, according to The Irrawaddy and Wunna Khwar Nyo.

Myat Thu Tan was denied family visits while held at Mrauk-U Prison and had not been tried or convicted at the time of his death, Wunna Khwar Nyo told CPJ. The journalist was transferred with the other detainees to the Light Infantry Battalion 378 camp before they were killed, Wunna Khwar Nyo said.

Myanmar’s Ministry of Information did not immediately respond to CPJ’s emailed request for information on Myat Thu Tan’s killing.

Myanmar ranked 9th on CPJ’s latest Global Impunity Index, an annual global ranking of countries where the killers of journalists habitually get away with murder. The nation also is the world’s second-worst jailer of journalists, according to CPJ’s 2023 prison census.