Thaung Sein (Thar Cho)

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Thaung Sein, a freelance photojournalist, and Kyaw Thwin, a columnist at the Burmese-language magazine Dhamah Yate, were arrested on March 27, 2006, and sentenced the following day to three years in prison for photographing and videotaping while riding on a public bus near the capital city, Naypyidaw (formerlly known as Pyinmana).

The two journalists were charged under the 1996 Television and Video Act, which bars the distribution of film without official approval. Under the law, every videotape in Burma must receive a certificate, which may be revoked at any time, from the government’s censorship board.

Burmese security officials were under strict orders to stop and detain anyone found taking photographs near the capital. Thaung Sein, also known as Thar Cho, and Kyaw Thwin, more widely known by his pen name Moe Tun, were placed at Yemethin Prison in central Burma, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma, a prisoner assistance group based in Thailand.

Both journalists appealed the decision on grounds that they had not taken footage of restricted areas. On June 21, 2007, an appeals court based in the central town of Yemethin upheld the lower court’s verdict without allowing defense witnesses to testify, according to information from their lawyer that was received by the Burma Media Association, an exile-run press freedom advocacy group.

Burma ‘s secretive military government abruptly moved the national capital in November 2005 to Naypyidaw, a newly built administrative center located 250 miles (400 kilometers) north of Rangoon. Regional news reports, citing official government documents, said the junta’s decision to move the capital was motivated by fears of supposed military strikes.