Frenchman could face up to 3 years in prison for flying drone in Naypyidaw

Myanmar’s parliament compound in Naypyidaw. Photo: Coconuts Yangon
Myanmar’s parliament compound in Naypyidaw. Photo: Coconuts Yangon

A French national was arrested in Naypyidaw on Thursday for flying a drone over Myanmar’s parliament, the French embassy in Yangon confirmed on Monday.

In an email to Coconuts Yangon, the embassy said that they were informed of the news of Mr. Desclaux’s arrest on Friday and that they were collaborating with police authorities as part of “consular protection provided to its citizen who is still in detention.”

News of the arrest first surfaced on NewsWatch, an online weekly journal, which posted pictures of Mr. Desclaux showing him holding the drone in question, holding the drone and other electronics he was carrying, and, bizarrely, his passport photo with all of his private information left unredacted in a Facebook post shared to the public.

According to the same Facebook post, authorities noticed that Mr. Desclaux was flying a drone near the entrance to the Union Assembly on Yaza Htani Road in Ottara Thiri Township and quickly reported it up the command chain.

Soon after, Ottara Thiri police officers apprehended Mr. Desclaux and charged him under article 8 of the Export and Import law, which prohibits importing “restricted or banned goods” without a license. If convicted, he could be sentenced up three years in prison or charged with a fine.

In 2017, a former Coconuts Yangon photographer, two foreign journalists and their driver were jailed for the same offence.

According to his Facebook page, Arthur Desclaux, or the Nomad Kite Surfer, is a kite-surfing instructor based in Thailand. He’s also a biking enthusiast, having biked in 40 countries around the world over a three year period.

Police officials in Naypyidaw could not be reached for a comment.

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