Myanmar releases journalists, staff arrested over drone

Local interpreter Aung Naing Soe exits a police van as he arrives at court in Naypyitaw, Myanmar Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017. The court has dropped additional charges against Aung Naing Soe, a local driver Hla Tin, and two foreign journalists who were arrested in October for allegedly flying a drone over the parliament. (AP Photo/Thet Aung)
Pan Ei Mon, wife of Reuters journalist Thet Oo Maung Maung, also known as Wa Lone, talks to journalists during a press briefing Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, Yangon, Myanmar. A court extended the detention of two Reuters journalists and set their trial for Jan. 10 on charges of violating state secrets. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested Dec. 12 for acquiring "important secret papers" from two policemen. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw)
Local interpreter Aung Naing Soe exits a police van as he arrives at court in Naypyitaw, Myanmar Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017. The court has dropped additional charges against Aung Naing Soe, a local driver Hla Tin, and two foreign journalists who were arrested in October for allegedly flying a drone over the parliament. (AP Photo/Thet Aung)
Pan Ei Mon, center, wife of Reuters journalist Thet Oo Maung Maung, also known as Wa Lone, talks to journalists during a press briefing with Nyo Nyo Aye, right, sister of Kyaw Soe Oo also known as Moe Aung, and Zeyar Hlaing, left, a member of the Myanmar Journalist Network, Yangon, Myanmar, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017. A court extended the detention of two Reuters journalists and set their trial for Jan. 10 on charges of violating state secrets. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested Dec. 12 for acquiring "important secret papers" from two policemen. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw)
Pan Ei Mon, center, wife of Reuters journalist Thet Oo Maung Maung, also known as Wa Lone leaves after a press briefing in Yangon, Myanmar, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017. A court extended the detention of two Reuters journalists and set their trial for Jan. 10 on charges of violating state secrets. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested Dec. 12 for acquiring "important secret papers" from two policemen. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw)
Myanmar driver Hla Tin, center, leaves after his trial at a Zabuthiri Township court in Naypyitaw, Myanmar Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017. The court has dropped additional charges against Hla Tin, local interpreter Aung Naing Soe and two foreign journalists who were arrested in October for allegedly flying a drone over the parliament. (AP Photo/Thet Aung)
Local interpreter Aung Naing Soe, right, and driver Hla Tin, left, walk out as they were released from Yamethin prison Friday, Dec. 29, 2017, in Yamethin township, on the outskirts of Naypyitaw, Myanmar. Two journalists and The two local staff and two journalists were released from a Myanmar prison Friday, two months after their arrest for allegedly flying a drone over the parliament. (AP Photo)
Malaysian journalist Mok Choy Lin exits a police as she arrives at court in Naypyitaw, Myanmar Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017. The court has dropped additional charges against Mok, her colleague Singaporean Lau Hon Meng, and two local interpreter and driver who were arrested in October for allegedly flying a drone over the parliament. (AP Photo/Thet Aung)
Nyo Nyo Aye, sister of Kyaw Soe Oo slao known as Moe Aung, talks to journalists during a press briefing along with lawyer Than Zaw Aung, right, and Pan Ei Mon, left, wife of Reuters journalist Thet Oo Maung Maung also known as Wa Lone, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017 in Yangon, Myanmar. A court extended the detention of two Reuters journalists and set their trial for Jan. 10 on charges of violating state secrets. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested Dec. 12 for acquiring "important secret papers" from two policemen. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw)
Singaporean journalist Lau Hon Meng exits a police van as he arrives at the court in Naypyitaw, Myanmar Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017. The court has dropped additional charges against Lau, his colleague Malaysian Mok Choy Lin, and two local interpreter and driver who were arrested in October for allegedly flying a drone over the parliament. (AP Photo/Thet Aung)
Malaysian journalist Mok Choy Lin talks to journalists as she leaves after her trial at a court in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017. The court has dropped additional charges against Lau, his colleague Malaysian Mok Choy Lin, and two local interpreter and driver who were arrested in October for allegedly flying a drone over the parliament. (AP Photo/Thet Aung)
Local interpreter Aung Naing Soe, center, and driver Hla Tin, left, are welcomed by family members as they were released from Yamethin prison Friday, Dec. 29, 2017, in Yamethin township, on the outskirts of Naypyitaw, Myanmar. Two journalists and their two local staff, Aung Naing Soe and Hla Tin, were released from a Myanmar prison Friday, two months after their arrest for allegedly flying a drone over the parliament. (AP Photo)
Malaysian journalist Mok Choy Lin, right, and Myanmar driver Hla Tin, leaves after their trial at the court in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017. The court has dropped additional charges against Hla Tin, and Mok along with, local interpreter Aung Naing Soe and Singaporean journalist Lau Hon Meng who were arrested in October for allegedly flying a drone over the parliament. (AP Photo/Thet Aung)
Local driver Hla Tin exits a police van as he arrives at court in Naypyitaw, Myanmar Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017. The court has dropped additional charges against Hla Tin, local interpreter Aung Naing Soe and two foreign journalists who were arrested in October for allegedly flying a drone over the parliament. (AP Photo/Thet Aung)

BANGKOK — Two journalists and their two local staff were released from a Myanmar prison Friday, two months after their arrest for allegedly flying a drone over the parliament.

Singaporean Lau Hon Meng and Malaysian Mok Choy Lin were working for the Turkish state broadcaster TRT when they were arrested Oct. 27 in the capital, Naypitaw.

A court on Thursday dropped additional charges against them, their local interpreter Aung Naing Soe and driver Hla Tin. They had been scheduled for release on Jan. 5 after serving a 2-month prison sentence for illegally flying a drone but were freed early.

Their lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said Thursday that authorities dropped more the serious charges of importing a drone without permission and immigration violations against the foreigners after concluding they did not intent to endanger national security.

Authorities also wanted to maintain good diplomatic relations with the countries of the two journalists, he said.

In a separate case Wednesday, a court extended the detention of two Reuters journalists and set their trial for Jan. 10 on charges of violating state secrets.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested Dec. 12 for acquiring "important secret papers" from two policemen. The police officers had worked in Rakhine state, where abuses widely blamed on the military have driven more than 630,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee into neighboring Bangladesh. The charges are punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Rights and media groups have criticized the new civilian government led by the Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for continuing to use colonial-era laws to threaten and imprison journalists. Such laws were widely used by a military junta that had ruled Myanmar to muzzle critics and the media.

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