Si Thu (Yay Pearl)

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Freelance photographer Si Thu, also known as Yay Pearl, is serving a two-year prison sentence for criminal incitement, a charge Myanmar’s military regime has used broadly to stifle independent news reporting since staging a democracy-suspending coup in 2021.

In the wake of the military’s February 1, 2021, coup and subsequent protests, the junta has engaged in an ongoing crackdown on Myanmar’s independent media, detaining and sentencing dozens of journalists.

Si Thu, who contributed photographs to the local independent CJ Platform, was arrested on June 21, 2022, while taking photos of an anti-coup protest in Yangon’s Hlegu township, according to CJ Platform editor-in-chief Min Thu Win Htut, who communicated with CPJ via email. Si Thu was charged with incitement after police found protest and other politics-related photographs on his mobile phone, Min Thu Win Htut said. 

In November 2022, a court inside Yangon’s Insein Prison convicted and sentenced him for violating Article 505(a) of the penal code, a broad provision that criminalizes incitement and false news, according to a database compiled by the local rights group Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, data compiled by the Detained Journalists Information Myanmar Facebook group, which CPJ reviewed, and Min Thu Win Htut. 

CPJ did not include Si Thu in its 2022 prison census because it was not aware of his arrest and conviction at the time.

He was being detained in Yangon’s Insein Prison and was in good health in late 2023, according to Min Thu Win Htut.

The Myanmar Ministry of Information did not reply to CPJ’s October 2023 emailed request for comment on Si Thu’s conviction, sentencing, health, and status in prison.