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Critics Say Myanmar Still Lacks Press Freedoms


We're going to hear now from someone who knew that photojournalist Anthony spoke of. Aung Kyaw Naing was picked up by the military when he was documenting fighting between the army and a rebel group in the North of the country. Our guest, Ma Thida, is a writer, poet, physician and a longtime aide to Aung San Suu Kyi. She came to Washington to work with the writer's group PEN to set up a branch of PEN in Myanmar. Thank you for joining us.

MA THIDA: Thank you for inviting me to here.

MONTAGNE: You were friends with the journalist who's been killed. What happened there? How did he die, apparently at the hands of the government?

THIDA: Yeah. It was so much unclear about the process of how he ended up in the military custody and how he was shoot kill or - we really don't know the root causes for his death. Even for the autopsy reading, it's just very brief autopsy result. And it's not enough. We really want to know more about it.

MONTAGNE: Well, let me ask. The army has charged that he was a spy - a spokesperson for a militant group.

THIDA: Yeah.

MONTAGNE: And they've said that he was - they said that he was shot trying to escape. Is that viewed as a warning to other journalists, do you think?

THIDA: Sure. Definitely. All of us, we recognize him as truly the photojournalist. And the autopsy results also gave us the one shoot. It's just underneath from the chin.

MONTAGNE: Under from the chin - you mean like close up?

THIDA: Yeah. Close up. Yeah. So it is pretty much like the execution rather than the shooting when he trying to escape. So it's truly an alarming for the other journalists and even for the citizens. Illegal killing can happen to anybody anytime anywhere. So it is very much alarming to everybody.

MONTAGNE: One thing, though. Aung San Suu Kyi, who's been a great hero of the opposition to the military government in Myanmar for many years - for decades, she has been rather heavily criticized for not defending or speaking up strongly enough to defend this particular group, the Rohingya, but generally, groups that are being targeted. What about that?

THIDA: You know, not only for that group but also for some ethnic minorities in the North. She cannot be that much outspoken on these issues yet. But I think for her, principal is just to build the national reconciliation for the longer run. And she might think she still needs to win the trust from the army to proceed for the longer sustainable peace. So for that reason, she's very careful about talking on this issue. But we wish she can be more outspoken not only in order to have true reconciliation, but also in order to win the trust from the army.

MONTAGNE: You've come to Washington as a part of an opposition. You know very much about what's going on in Myanmar. How worried are you? And how would you like to see the United States react to this?

THIDA: I have a very big concern that not only United States, but also the whole international community, is thinking our story is a success story. It's a glamorous change in Burma. But please notice that we are indeed in the grievance situation. We are really - are we in the frozen state, or are we in the stasis, not going forward, not going backwards? So please keep an eye our issue deeper, and help us for being out of this stasis.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

THIDA: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Ma Thida is a Myanmar doctor, author and former aide to Aung San Suu Kyi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.