Myanmar’s President’s Office is investigating the Facebook page Yangon Informer for publishing the leaked text of a secret memorandum of understanding between the Myanmar government and two UN agencies on the repatriation of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
Yangon Informer, created by American educator Kirt Mausert in Sept. 2017, published the 10-page document on June 29 under the description “Full text of the recent ‘secret’ MoU between the Myanmar government, UNDP and UNHCR.”
President’s Office spokesman Zaw Htay said yesterday that officials are trying to determine who is behind the page.
“We will examine whether it was created by people from UN circles, the diplomatic community or journalists. If it was someone linked to those groups, it’s a breach of ethics and they must take responsibility. This is a classified document,” he told the Irrawaddy.
The MoU was signed by the government and the two UN agencies on June 6. According to the leaked text, it contains a clause that prohibits any of the parties from releasing its contents without the consent of all parties. Since the text went public, rights groups have criticized it for failing to sufficiently guarantee the safety and civil rights of refugees who choose to return.
Zaw Htay said the leak of the agreement, as well as the leak of a previous repatriation agreement between the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh, was an attempt to destabilize northern Rakhine State. He also said the criticism of the agreement was a political tactic by Rohingyas to put international pressure on the Myanmar government.
“We won’t lodge a motion with the UN unless we get concrete evidence that is good enough to prove our case. We were initially informed that the documents were given to some reporters. I hope the UN [agencies] are not involved in this case, and we don’t believe they would act in that way,” he said.
Mausert, the creator of the page, is unapologetic about publishing the agreement, but he has pointed out that he was not the original leaker. That credit, as he and many journalists in Myanmar know, goes to the Free Rohingya Coalition, whose members say they received the document from a high-ranking, non-UN official.
“I am very amused that they are crediting my little hobby with divulging classified information that was publicly available,” Mausert told Coconuts.
He says he created Yangon Informer to “to promote media literacy and trust in reliable news sources.” These efforts got him banned from entering Myanmar in January, though he still carries on with the effort from abroad.
When asked whether the investigation of his page gives him anything to fear, Mausert said: “Not at all. To quote Walter from the ‘Big Lebowski,’ these men are cowards.”