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Rakhine and Rohingyas - Hunting the Truth


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The crisis in Myanmar's Rakhine State, and the exodus of 700,000 Rohingya Muslims since last August has been one of the biggest media stories in this region of recent times. It has also presented journalists with particular responsibilities and challenges, as the Myanmar authorities have barred access to Rakhine State for almost all outsiders, even the United Nations, so that first-hand information about what has happened there is very difficult to obtain.

But the multiple accounts given by refugees in Bangladesh paint a grim picture of a violent state response, to attacks on around 30 police and military posts by Rohingya militants last August, which has been described as ethnic cleansing by the UN, and may amount to crime against humanity. The seriousness of the allegations against the Myanmar authorities imposes a special imperative on journalists to gather as much information as possible from all relevant sources to try to fill in the many gaps in our knowledge about events in Rakhine. That determination has cost two Reuters journalists in Myanmar, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oe, their freedom, as they have been prosecuted for receiving sensitive information about an alleged massacre of Rohingyas. Public opinion inside Myanmar, though, has turned sharply against foreign media reporting, which is widely perceived as unfairly critical of Aung San Suu Kyi, and too sympathetic to the Rohingyas.

The FCCT is pleased to bring together a group of journalists whose experience gives them unique insights into the challenge of seeking accurate information on the Rakhine crisis.

Poppy McPherson has been reporting in this region, mainly on Myanmar, for five years, producing powerful pieces on the Rohingya exodus for The Guardian and Time Magazine. She is currently based in Bangkok and finishing a book on the Rakhine crisis.

Hannah Beech is the New York Times SE Asia bureau chief based in Bangkok, and was previously working for Time magazine in China and South East Asia for many years.

John Reed moved from Jerusalem to Bangkok last year to take up the post of regional correspondent for the Financial Times. He has recently written a long report on the changing perspective of the media in Myanmar on how the world views their country.

Matthew Tostevin is a veteran journalist for Reuters and currently the bureau chief in Bangkok. He previously spent much of his career in Africa.

Patrick Brown has lived and worked as a photographer in Thailand and the region for nearly 20 years, and covered the unfolding refugee crisis in Cox Bazaar over 3 months from early September. His images have been nominated for a World Press Photo award.

Jonathan Head is the BBC South East Asia Correspondent. He has been based in Thailand for eleven years over the past two decades, and has also been based in Indonesia, Japan, Singapore and Istanbul. His reporting from Rakhine State last September has been nominated for several awards.

The panel will be moderated by Gwen Robinson chief editor for the Nikkei Asia Review.

This discussion is open to the public.

Admission is 450 Baht for Non-FCCT Members, free for FCCT members, and 150 Baht for Thai Journalists and students with ID.

Due to a staffing shortage on Wednesday, instead of a limited dinner menu, a dinner buffet will be offered for 250 Baht. Sorry for any inconvenience that this causes.