Suu Kyi defends court decision to jail Reuters reporters

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Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's state counselor and de facto national leader, may be having second thoughts about the military's crackdown on Rohingya Muslims and the sentencing of two local Reuters reporters to seven years imprisonment for violating a colonial era security law.

Rights groups and global observers have seen the case as a bellwether for democracy and press freedom under Suu Kyi.

Army-led "clearance operations" last August drove 7,00,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh, carrying with them widespread accounts of atrocities - rape, murder and arson - by Myanmar police and troops. "I don't think anybody has bothered to read the summary of the judge, it had to do with an Official Secrets Act", she added.

Throughout the half-hour conversation with Mr Brende, Ms Suu Kyi stayed clear of talking about her party's chances in the next general election, which is just two years away.

However, Aung San Suu Kyi said the reporters have the right to "appeal the judgment and to point out why the judgment was wrong".

The journalists, Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were found guilty on official secrets charges and sentenced earlier this month in a landmark case seen as a test of progress towards democracy in Myanmar.

The court maintained that the two journalists had meant to damage Myanmar with documents that police witnesses admitting to planting on the pair just moments before their arrest.

Myanmar's government also confirmed Thursday that Suu Kyi would not attend the United Nations General Assembly session later this month in NY.

But Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, questioned Suu Kyi's grasp of the case.

Once a vocal and valiant proponent of freedom of speech, Aung San Suu Kyi did not have much to say while the case was on trial, even as worldwide governments and the media panned it as an attack on free speech and a huge step backward for democracy in Myanmar.

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi addresses participants during the opening session of the World Economic Forum on ASEAN on September 12, 2018 in Hanoi, Vietnam.

"But we believe that for the sake of long-term stability and security we have to be fair to all sides. We can not choose and pick who should be protected by the rule of law".

"Politics is politics", she said.

Rohingya refugees refuse to return to Myanmar without guarantees of safety, restitution for lost lands and citizenship. United Nations investigators have said the campaign by the Myanmar military was carried out with "genocidal intent".

"If anyone feels there has been a miscarriage of justice I would like them to point it out", Ms. Suu Kyi said, saying they could appeal to higher courts.

However, Washington, which has been competing for influence in Myanmar with its strategic rival China, has so far spared the Myanmar's top generals from sanctions.

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