Thursday, June 26, 2008

Myanmar journalist arrested for burying cyclone dead: watchdog

AFP/File Photo: Volunteers from a free funeral service based in Yangon, cremate decayed bodies in early June....

BANGKOK (AFP) - A Myanmar editor has been arrested and his magazine closed after he travelled to the cyclone-hit Irrawaddy Delta to help bury people killed in the storm, media rights watchdogs said Thursday.

Aung Kyaw San, editor of the Myanmar Tribune, was arrested on June 15 along with 16 other people who had volunteered to help bury the cyclone dead, Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association said in a statement.

His group of volunteers had buried more than 400 bodies, following Red Cross procedures, but were arrested as they returned to the main city of Yangon to collect more burial sacks, the groups said.

Five of them, including Aung Kyaw San, are being held in the notorious Insein Prison north of Yangon, the statement added.

"It is now essential to get the junta to stop preventing civil society, including the press, from participating in the relief effort," the groups said.

At least 10 journalists and a blogger are now detained in Myanmar, they added.

More than 138,000 people are dead or missing after Cyclone Nargis hit the country nearly eight weeks ago. The United Nations estimates 2.4 million people need humanitarian aid.

In a report released Wednesday, experts from the UN and Southeast Asia said that only 45 percent of survivors are receiving humanitarian aid, leaving most to fend for themselves or seek help from local donors.

Myanmar's military, which has ruled the country formerly known as Burma since 1962, sparked global outrage in the weeks after the storm by refusing to allow a major international relief effort.

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