Conflicts & War

Mratt, first journalist to seek asylum in EU after Myanmar’s coup

By Alberto Masegosa

Madrid, Jun 6 (EFE).- Mratt Kyaw Thu will begin the process of applying for asylum in Spain next week, the first Burmese journalist to formally seek refuge in the European Union following the military coup that plunged the Asian country into chaos.

The process will put an end to a long and arduous escape from Myanmar, where he is wanted for his coverage of the anti-coup protests amid a wider clampdown on independent media by the junta.

To escape the army, Mratt tells Efe in an interview that he had to change location every day and spend each night in a different house for a month.

“I had to find friends who are not really related to journalism or the politics industry. Just very normal people. Because if they are, the military can easily find me,” he says, adding that 35 journalists are behind bars in Myanmar.

At just 30, Mratt already has a decade of journalism experience under his belt with both local and international outlets, including the Mizzima group, the biggest in Myanmar. In 2017, he won the Kate Webb prize for his AFP coverage of ethnic conflicts in Southeast Asia.

Sitting down to talk with Efe, for which he has been a contributor since 2018, he described the first days following the coup on February 1 as chaotic.

“In the last week of February, soldiers started to shoot people and knock on doors of journalists at night. They started to target the journalists and arrest them at midnight,” he stresses.

“Journalists started to hide their identity. Some people shaved their head and others pretended they are not journalists.”

Mratt decided to leave Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar and its former capital, at the end of March.

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