Myanmar Releases Jailed US Reporter, Japan Denies Helping

Just days after he was sentenced to 11 years in prison by a military court in Myanmar for incitement and violations of laws on immigration and unlawful assembly, the US journalist Danny Fenster has been freed from prison, confirmed the former New Mexico governor and former US ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson, who had been on a private humanitarian visit to the country.

Myanmar’s military spokesperson Zaw Min Tun also confirmed that Fenster (37), the former managing editor of Frontier Myanmar – independent news outlet that covered current affairs, business and politics – has been released and deported, refusing to share other details at the time.

Richardson, who said he had conducted face-to-face negotiations with Min Aung Hlaing, the leader of Myanmar’s military junta, pointed on Monday that over the next day and a half, Fenster will return to the United States through Qatar.

Myanmar’s military-owned Myawaddy TV conformed on Monday that Fenster had been granted an amnesty and released from jail following requests from Richardson, who has longstanding ties with Myanmar, but, in a surprising twist, it also credited for the release Yohei Sasakawa as well as former Japanese minister Hideo Watanabe.

Sasakawa is a chairman of the Nippon Foundation who doubles as Japan’s special envoy on Myanmar for national reconciliation and both he and Watanabe have for years cultivated close ties to the Myanmar military.

Sasakawa did meet with Hlaing over the weekend, but citing political sensitivity, his Nippon Foundation declined to comment on the talks.

Yet, Japan distanced itself on Tuesday from a visit to Myanmar by its special envoy during which, according to Myanmar military-run media, he played a role in Fenster’s release with Japanese foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi stressing during a press conference that Sasakawa was on visit to Myanmar in a personal capacity.

Hayashi noted that he was aware of Sasakawa’s meeting with Hlaing but stressed that it wasn’t carried out in his capacity as the government representative.

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