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Two American journalists deported

(Mizzima/IFEX) - New Delhi, 12 May 2009 - Burma's military government has deported two American journalists who were teaching feature writing and photography to students in the country's second largest city of Mandalay.

Jerry Redfern and Karen Coates said they were arrested on the evening of 6 May 2009 in their hotel room in Mandalay and taken to Rangoon on a train, from where they were deported to Bangkok the following day.

In a statement, the two journalists admitted teaching Burmese students non-fiction feature writing and photography, under an arrangement facilitated by the American Center in Rangoon and approved by Burma's Press Scrutiny Board.

"We were arrested at our hotel after dinner on May 6 (. . .) They said they had received the arrest order from Naypyitaw half an hour after our last class and lecture had ended," the two said in a statement released from Bangkok.

Officials who came to arrest the two journalists gave no reasons for their arrest and appeared unaware of any specifics regarding the order, the two said. "They did not give a reason for the arrest. Many said they did not know why we were arrested. They asked us nothing, told us nothing, searched nothing, took nothing. We were not mistreated or manhandled," the two said.

"We are heartbroken to think we might not be able to return to Burma. But that is trivial compared to how we worry about the safety of the people who helped us on these trips," the two said.

While Redfern and Coates said they are unaware of the reasons for their deportation, in their statement they brushed off rumours calling them agents of the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). They also dismissed allegations that they were with meeting Buddhist monks in monasteries or with any other politically-sensitive people, including the famous Mandalay comedians the Moustache Brothers, known for their satirical jokes against the ruling junta.

The pair believe their arrest and deportation could be fall-out from the recent actions of another American citizen - whom they do not know or have connections to - who was arrested for swimming across Inya Lake and meeting detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

So far, Burmese authorities have not made public the news about the arrest and deportation. The American Center in Rangoon, meanwhile, refused to comment on the incident.

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