Singapore journalist probed for breaching import law after using drone in Myanmar

Singapore journalist Lau Hon Meng, 43, and Malaysian journalist Mok Choy Lin, 47, had flown a drone over a parliament building in Naypyitaw. PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK - Two journalists from Singapore and Malaysia are being investigated by Myanmar police for breaching export and import laws after flying a drone over a parliament building in Naypyitaw.

Singapore journalist Lau Hon Meng, 43, and Malaysian journalist Mok Choy Lin, 47, were detained while on assignment for the Turkish state broadcaster, Turkish Radio and Television Corporation.

Myanmar's Ministry of Information announced their detention on its Facebook page on Friday (Oct 27) night, while publishing pictures of their drone and their journalist visas.

Their driver Hla Tin and local interpreter, journalist Aung Naing Soe, were also detained.

On Saturday (Oct 28) afternoon, Mr Tun Tun Win, a police officer at Myoma police station in Naypyitaw, told The Straits Times: "The foreigners are now still at the Myoma Police Station and the locals are sent to Pyinmana prison. The case has been opened with Section eight of export import law."

Under this law, anyone who exports or imports restricted, prohibited or banned goods can be jailed for up to three years and fined. Myanmar has no specific law on drones, though travellers have reported facing problems trying to bring them into the country. According to a report by Frontier Myanmar last year, drones have been used in Myanmar for gathering meteorological data, structural checks and traffic control.

Mr Lau and Ms Mok were planning to take pictures of the parliament buildings and pagodas in Naypyitaw when they were spotted by security guards, according to a report in Myanmar government mouthpiece Global New Light of Myanmar.

The Shwedagon Pagoda board of trustees also bans the use of drones above the famous religious site.

The journalists: Lau Hon Meng (left) from Singapore and Mok Choy Lin from Malaysia. PHOTOS: FACEBOOK/ CENTRAL NEWS BUREAU

Myanmar's foreign affairs ministry has informed the Singapore and Malaysian embassies in Yangon about this case.

Meanwhile, over 20 police officers raided Mr Aung Naing Soe's house in Yangon on Friday evening. According to a report by Reuters, the search lasted two hours and involved immigration as well as special branch police. They seized some memory sticks.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.