Bias and bribery in Lae Kyi civil cases

February 17, 2013

HURFOM: In 2012, the secretary of Lae Kyi Village in Yebyu Township adjudicated and settled three local disputes. It is common practice at the village level for administrators to determine legal cases, and in Lae Kyi, the responsibility for arbitration was handed to the village’s second-in-command, Secretary U Naing Oo. However, villagers alleged that in each of last year’s settlements, only the parties that paid bribes won the cases, even when evidence indicated they were complicit in wrongdoing. U Naing Oo reportedly received between 100,000 and 200,000 kyat per trial, and residents expressed concern that local level injustice continues despite the larger movement toward democracy in Burma.

“The village administrator and secretary used [settlement] documents without an official stamp and forced us to sign [them],” said one plaintiff. “We lost the case because the village secretary took money from our opponent.”

In previous years, U Naing Oo served as the village administrator but resigned in the wake of corruption allegations. Residents accused him of benefiting from close ties with Burmese authorities and sharing profits from bribes with the current Village Administrator, U Tun Syein. Additionally, complaints were made that every villager is responsible for paying 1,000 kyat per month to cover U Tun Syein’s salary.

“Actually, we would pay more if the village administrator helped us improve our village and [if he] stopped working with the village secretary,” said a Lae Kyi villager.

Residents of Lae Kyi, Mawkyi, Chakataw, Zinzow and Yaycyankyi Villages in Yebyu Township also reported paying a yearly tax for the past two decades to fund security detail by local militia forces. Each house is asked to contribute roughly five baskets of paddy, or unmilled rice, equivalent to 110 kilos, and villagers said that every year, they wait for an announcement telling them how much they have to pay and when.

In spite of their donations, residents claimed they have been forced to guard their own village.

“The [security] situation is not getting better even though we pay the security tax. When there has been conflict, we are the ones who have to deal with the problems. We would like to be responsible for our own Mon village and not be under the control of Burmese [militia forces],” said a resident.

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