A journalist and his family have had their lives threatened after the former threatened to expose a local drug ring.
Aye Lwin is a freelancer who lives in Hlaingtharya with his family. Last week, he publicly claimed that drug dealings were regularly taking place at a tea shop in the neighborhood, and that not only did police know about it, but they were actually protecting those involved.
The journalist planned on holding a press conference on Saturday to present his evidence to other members of the media. However, he eventually cancelled the event after the new police chief of the Hlaingtharya Police Station pleaded with him to do so.
According to Kumudra, the new chief had only been in the position for a few days, and requested Aye Lwin to hold off until he could get up to speed on things. Aye Lwin states that he had reported the names of two dealers to the previous chief and asked that action be taken against them, but nothing ever happened. Instead, the chief was transferred to another station.
Around noon on the same Saturday when the press conference was originally scheduled to take place, seven people on four motorcycles hounded Aye Lwin and his family on the street where they lived. A friend of Aye Lwin was also beaten up after the mob saw him talking to the journalist; one man told him that he too would be killed like the rest of Aye Lwin’s family.
“A group followed us into our street and threatened to stab us,” Aye Lwin told Kumudra. The mob told them to not say another word about the drugs, or that next time, they would kill them. They also said that they would make it so that the family would be forced to move to another township.
The thugs dispersed when someone called the cops. At least one of them has been identified, although it’s unclear whether police will launch an official investigation.
Journalists in Myanmar often put their lives on the line for their work, with little assistance or protection from authorities. Two weeks ago, a journalist from the Kantarawaddy Times was ambushed and kidnapped by two assailants with a car that later got into a vehicular accident. In April, Amnesty International called on Myanmar authorities to take immediate action in response to threats made against the editor-in-chief of the Root Investigative Agency; following a bombing at the editor’s home, the Committee to Protect Journalists “call[ed] on national authorities to identify, apprehend, and prosecute the perpetrators of this crime and to ensure the safety of all journalists.”