Wed, 24 May 2000

Envoy vows to release Irawn from Myanmar

JAKARTA (JP): Indonesian Ambassador to Myanmar Nasaruddin Mochtar Koro said on Tuesday that the embassy would do its best to help free a young Indonesian man arrested in Yangon for illegally installing and operating a communications system in his hotel room.

In a telephone interview with The Jakarta Post from Yangon, Nasaruddin expressed confidence that the young man, Irawan Sidharta, was not engaged in any sort of espionage activities in Myanmar.

Irawan was arrested on May 2 and officially detained on May 8 for violating the Myanmar Wireless Act No.6 on communications.

"Irawan Sidharta, according to the Myanmar authority, has illegally installed satellite communications," the ambassador said.

However, Nasaruddin could not give further details as the embassy is still awaiting an official report from local authorities. "Whatever it is, we are going to try to release Irawan," he said.

The Myanmar government maintains strict control over all public communications including satellite and computer links with the outside world.

Nasaruddin said Irawan is an employee of a U.S. satellite company based in Florida, which works in cooperation with U.S. company International Marine Satellite (Inmarsat).

Irawan, along with American national Jeffrey Craing Leseur and Philippine national Jayvee Shahjib Robert Sencio, entered Myanmar on April 7 and stayed at the Asia Plaza Hotel.

Leseur and Sencio left Myanmar before Irawan was detained.

Nasaruddin said he was informed of the arrest by the U.S. Embassy in Yangon.

"Irawan never reported anything to us and when he was arrested he made a call to (his colleagues) in the United States instead," Nasaruddin explained.

The New Light of Myanmar reported in Yangon on Monday that the three foreigners entered Myanmar on April 13 and rented a room in the hotel on the pretext of opening a company office.

"They illegally carried out local and overseas communications without using the communications link of the Myanmar Post and Telecommunications," the progovernment newspaper claimed. It did not specify what kind of communication link was made.

The paper also reported that the confiscated equipment in Irawan's room was worth US$100,000.

"Action will be taken according to the law against illegal local and overseas communications by use of satellite communication systems," warned the paper.

Irawan, on a salary of $1,000 a month, was the only member of the operation residing permanently in Myanmar. (dja)