Reporter Mratt Kyaw Thu’s exodus from Myanmar ends safely in Spain

Photo: Mratt Kyaw Thu / Facebook
Photo: Mratt Kyaw Thu / Facebook

Journalist Mratt Kyaw Thu landed in Spain yesterday after four weeks waiting in limbo at Frankfurt International Airport for Germany to decide on his asylum application.

Spanish news agency EFE said Mratt had arrived safely in Madrid after he fled Myanmar, where the award-winning journalist had been providing critical, on-the-ground reporting on resistance to the military takeover until he himself became a target.

Mratt spent several weeks traveling incognito into Thailand after the authorities issued an arrest warrant, a common tactic employed against civil society members, journalists, activists, politicians, influencers and athletes who have spoken up against the military regime.

Once in Thailand, he applied with Spain for a Schengen visa for free travel within the European Union. While in Frankfurt on his way to Spain, Mratt applied for asylum in Germany because of his existing network of friends, colleagues and academics there.

Thailand imprisons 3 journalists who fled Myanmar

Federal police placed Mratt under preventative detention on April 24 and took his phone, according to Reporter Without Borders.

“Since the Myanmar military put Mratt Kyaw Thu on a wanted list because of his critical reporting, his life has been in acute danger and he was forced to flee,” the group’s German  spokesperson, Katja Gloger, said in a statement.

For four weeks, Mratt was holed up in the airport’s federal refugee office without access to the internet, his laptop or phone.

However, German authorities decided that regulations allowed for asylum applicants to be transferred to the member state responsible for the claim, which in Mratt’s case was Spain.

Journalists and news media organizations have suffered a relentless assault by the ruling Myanmar junta’s security forces. Dozens of journalists have been arrested and currently more than 40 journalists and photographers still remain behind bars according to monitoring group Reporting ASEAN.

On Tuesday, Thailand transferred three reporters who had fled persecution across the border to begin serving jail sentences in Bangkok.

The U.S. State Department early this morning local time demanded that Myanmar release two American journalists imprisoned in Yangon’s notorious Insein Prison: Danny Fester, Frontier Myanmar managing editor, and Nathan Maung, Kamayut media editor. In a Sunday interview with CNN, Rose Fenster and Bud Fenster, his parents, told Brian Stelter that they have “no proof, no concrete information about his well-being.”

Japanese journalist Yuki Kitazumi and Polish journalist Robert Bociaga were both arrested and charged with public incitement then deported home.

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