World

Singaporean cameraman back home after Myanmar detention

Cheers and shouts of joy erupted as Singaporean cameraman Lau Hon Meng walked out of the Changi Airport Terminal 2 transit area.

The 43-year-old, together with Malaysian documentary producer Mok Choy Lin, arrived home yesterday evening from Yangon, where they had spent two months in a Myanmar prison.

They had flouted a colonial-era aircraft law by filming with a drone.

About 40 of Mr Lau's friends from Adam Road Presbyterian Church were waiting with a bright blue banner that read: "Praise the Lord, welcome home Lau."

Tearful hugs and embraces were exchanged as friends welcomed Mr Lau home - just in time for the New Year.

Mr Lau, who was accompanied by his wife, had another reason to celebrate - their son turned one on Thursday.

"I'm so happy to be home, I just want to praise God because He made it all possible," Mr Lau told The Straits Times.

Said his pastor Chris Chia, 58: "It's a great delight to have him back... He has had a very difficult time."

Ms Mok, 47, a Singapore permanent resident, left the airport without speaking to the media.

She and Mr Lau were detained on Oct 27 in Myanmar's capital Naypyitaw and subsequently sentenced to two months in jail.

Local journalist Aung Naing Soe, who acted as their interpreter, and their driver Hla Tin were also convicted.

The four - who were supposed to be jailed until Jan 9 - also faced pending Customs and immigration charges.

But the Myanmar authorities dropped the charges on Thursday and told the four that they would be released early.

Defence lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told The Straits Times over the phone: "They were released at 7am, and the two foreign journalists were escorted by immigration officers to (Yangon) airport."

A Myanmar police official told Reuters on Tuesday that the charges were being dropped because the four did not mean to endanger national security and that the country wanted to improve relations with Singapore and Malaysia.

They were detained while on assignment producing a documentary for Turkey's state broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT).

After their first conviction on Nov 10, they were sent to Yamethin prison in central Myanmar.

TRT's English-language unit, TRT World, said Mr Lau and Ms Mok entered Myanmar on journalist visas and had "shot in various locations with conventional cameras as well as with a drone, up until Oct 27".

WORLD