Family speaks on Huntington Woods native’s monthlong detainment in Myanmar

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published July 1, 2021

 Journalist and Huntington Woods native Danny Fenster has been detained by the Myanmar military for more than a month. Fenster’s family and friends back home have remained determined to spread the word of his story to get his release.

Journalist and Huntington Woods native Danny Fenster has been detained by the Myanmar military for more than a month. Fenster’s family and friends back home have remained determined to spread the word of his story to get his release.

Photo provided by Bryan Fenster

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HUNTINGTON WOODS — On May 24, Danny Fenster boarded a plane in the country of Myanmar to head back to his native Huntington Woods to surprise his parents, Rose and Buddy.

What happened next isn’t quite clear to Fenster’s family, but Fenster was detained at the Yangon International Airport by the country’s military. It was earlier this year in February that the military staged a coup that removed State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi from power.

More than a month has passed since Fenster’s detainment. In that time, he has not been able to speak to his family, including his wife, Juliana. Fenster’s brother, Bryan, said they’ve been running under the assumption that his brother was taken into custody because he’s a journalist.

“There’s a military takeover; they don’t want the world to know what’s happening there,” Bryan Fenster said. “They don’t want a democracy. They don’t want information free-flowing, so they want to control all of it and snag up journalists. To our knowledge, he made it through airport security (and) he was minutes from boarding the plane.”

Fenster, 37, is the managing editor of Frontier Myanmar. According to the publication, he appeared in a special court in Yangon’s Insein Prison June 17 on a charge under section 505-A of the Myanmar Penal Code, which carries a three-year prison sentence. Frontier Myanmar stated that the 505-A charge was introduced to the Penal Code after the coup and has been “widely used against journalists, activists and social media users.”

“We are shocked and frustrated that he has been detained for no apparent reason, and are concerned for his well being,” the company stated. “We are doing what we can to support him, as well as his family and friends, until he is freed.”

Bryan Fenster said the family still doesn’t have much information regarding Fenster, which has fueled their commitment to speak to as many public officials and community members to get the word out about his brother’s story.

This has led local officials, from U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, to state Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, and state Rep. Regina Weiss, D-Oak Park, to draft legislation and call for Fenster’s return. With Fenster’s family present June 23, Michigan’s House Government Operations Committee unanimously adopted a resolution urging President Joe Biden’s administration and the U.S. Department of State to act to secure Fenster’s release. The Fensters also were able to meet with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to discuss what the state can do to help.

Bryan Fenster called the day that the resolution passed “emotional,” but also one that was uplifting.

“It was just really reaffirming, like, we’re trying to do everything we can and it was really important for us to give our thanks to the people in the Capitol here who are supporting us,” he said.

“The problem is this regime doesn’t care for diplomacy, so it’s very hard to get to them,” Bryan Fenster said. “They’re very insulated, information sort of moves at turtle-like pace. They’re slow. All we can do here is continue to talk about this case and what happened to him and the type of person that he is, because we’re hoping that the more we can humanize, talk about his work, who he is, his moral character, that people from the world will take interest (and) find commonality that will hopefully empower them to help amplify his story.”

Part of those efforts have been helped by family and friends of the Fensters. Jennifer Cupples, a friend of Danny Fenster for more than 20 years, said that the family has given so much to the local community that everyone wanted to help out in any way they could. This led to the organization of events such as community gatherings in Huntington Woods and helping the family with a meal train to purchase them food.

“The outreach, the level of support, it’s just so heartwarming and it’s amazing, quite frankly, that there’s so many people that are willing to give their time and energy to write to people in the government, to volunteer and make T-shirts, to give meals, whether it’s homemade or pay for it,” she said. “It’s really been a group effort to keep the family going strong so that they can do what they need to get Danny back.”

Bryan Fenster said the support of the community has meant everything to the family.

“Our success is due to our community, our state,” he said. “It’s blown all expectations. It’s been amazing.”

On June 22, the family received word that Fenster had received consular access to speak with the American embassy in Yangon, Myanmar. The access occurred over the phone and not in person. Frontier Myanmar stated that Fenster is being held in Insein Prison and is due back in court July 1.

While the family has heard that Fenster is in good shape and unharmed, they still worry about his current condition after a month of detainment.

“That’s really all the information we have,” Bryan Fenster said. “We don’t have any details. We were told that he seems to be in good health, he’s not harmed, but, for us, our concern is it’s … too long and, surely, it’s had to have taken a mental, psychological toll on him, so we’re worried about that.”

For more information about Fenster, visit www.bringdannyhome.com.

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