Yangon residents snatched after visit by CNN crew ‘being held at military interrogation center’

At least six people who were detained on Friday after a CNN camera crew visited two markets in the north of Yangon are being held incommunicado at a military interrogation center, friends and relatives told Myanmar Now.

Armed men in plain clothes snatched at least five people from the Mingaladon Market and another two from the Ten Mile Market shortly after Clarissa Ward, the US broadcaster’s chief international correspondent, left the area with her team. 

Based on photos of people being abducted and interviews with relatives, friends and witnesses, Myanmar Now calculated that as many as nine people may have been detained, but was unable to identify two of them.

At least three of the detainees gave interviews to the CNN team, while two others took pictures of the crew and others were with people who gave interviews. 

Of those detained at least one has been released and at least six are being held at a military interrogation centre in the northeastern tonwship of Shwepyithar, according to their loved ones. 

One of the detainees is 23-year-old Yin Thet Tin. She went to the Mingaladon Market to buy snacks and gave an interview to Ward before being snatched. 

She was then brought to the interrogation center, said her sister, who did not want to be named. “We went there but we were not allowed to see her. We weren’t allowed to enter,” the sister said. 

Yin Thet Tin’s 17-year-old niece was detained but released the same day without being sent to Shwepyithar. Yin Thet Tin was taken to the interrogation centre at around 5pm on Friday, according to the sister. 

“Today we are planning to go to Shwepyithar for a while. But I do not know how to follow her case. We won’t be allowed inside,” she said on Saturday. 

Yin Thet Tin’s family is worried because they are unable to contact her, she added.

“My sister didn’t do anything. She was just getting snacks,” she said. “All she did was answer when the CNN reporter interviewed her. Since she is innocent, we want her to be released, safe and sound, as soon as possible after the interrogation.”

Nay Zarchi Shine, Shine Yadanar Phyo, and Sithu Phyo were also arrested by armed men in plain clothes yesterday at the Mingaladon Market. They were also taken to the Shwepyithar interrogation centre, a friend of Nay Zarchi Shine told Myanmar Now. 

“They also took her car,” the friend said. 

Two employees of the Asia Light Lighting store at the Ten Mile Market on Pyay Road were detained and taken to Shwepyithar immediately after the CNN crew left the area yesterday afternoon, according to a source who knows the women.

“They were taken to the interrogation centre. We have yet to get contact with them,” the source said. 

Myanmar Now was unable to contact officials from the military regime regarding the abductions. 

The military has carefully choreographed the visit by the CNN crew, who have been escorted everywhere since their arrival. 

The visit was authorised even as the coup regime seeks to crush independent media inside Myanmar by arresting journalists, raiding media offices, and revoking publishing licenses. 

Myanmar Now’s reporter Kay Zon Nway is being held at Insein Prison after she was detained covering a protest in February. She is among dozens of journalists who have been detained. 

The regime has murdered relatively few people since the CNN crew arrived. A police directive issued Tuesday, the day before the crew landed, told officers to be more restrained when attacking protesters.  

“Whenever trying to handle crowds, every stage of the process must be done step by step in accordance with procedures,” it read, “and responsible officers at all levels need to supervise police not to use excessive force.”

Residents of Yangon have taken advantage of the lull in violence to intensify their protests against the regime. 

Observers have criticised CNN for failing to speak up in defence of those detained after the interviews.

Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia at Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter that the broadcaster should tell the junta “that any big interviews in Naypyidaw will be canceled unless all who previously spoke with Clarissa Ward are immediately & unconditionally released!”

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