Relative of arrested drug user criticises corruption within Mon State law enforcement and prisons

July 17, 2015

The relative of an arrested drug user has accused police officers in Thanbyuzayat Township, Mon State, of misconduct and corruption. Nai Kyaw Win, a relative of arrestee Nai Ah Mile, described how police forces threatened his relative with fabricated charges of drug dealing, using intimidation to extort bribes from Nai Ah Mile and his wife. Nai Kyaw Win also spoke to HURFOM about corruption and bribery within Mon State’s prison system.

Nai Ah Mile was arrested two weeks ago at his house in Htin-yu village, Thanbyuzayat Township. When the police arrived at his house they conducted a search, which revealed 60 illicit pills. A few days later, they began to prepare a case to be disputed in court.

While the case was being prepared, Nai Kyaw Win alleges that the arresting police office sent his assistant to Nai Ah Mile’s house. According to Nai Kyaw Win, the police officer’s assistant threatened Nai Ah Mile that the police were preparing to charge him with drug dealing, instead of simply charging him with drug possession. Allegedly, the police assistant asked for a bribe of 300,000 Kyat, telling Nai Ah Mile that if he paid the bribe then the charges against him would be limited to drug use. However, he was warned that if he did not pay the bribe then he would also be charged with drug dealing, for which he would face three years in prison. Eventually, Nai Ah Mile paid the 300,000 Kyat bribe.

According to Nai Kyaw Win, local police forces’ misconduct did not end there. Soon afterwards, the police returned to Nai Ah Mile’s house to arrest his wife, accusing her too of dealing drugs. Reportedly, she was told, “You will be charged too. If you don’t want to be arrested, you have to pay us 600,000 Kyat. Then we won’t arrest you”. After this, the police officers returned again and again to threaten her. While Nai Kyaw Win maintains that Nai Ah Mile’s wife was not guilty of either drug trading or use, she was terrified and asked the police to accept a further 200,000 Kyat, telling the police officers that she didn’t have any more money to pay.

In addition to concerns about police misconduct in his relative’s case, Nai Kyaw Win has also raised concerns about corruption within Mon State’s prison system. He shared his friend’s experiences of the prison system in Moulmein, the capital of Mon State, explaining how prisoners are able to pay money for advantageous prison work placements, from which they can make a personal profit. He detailed,  “Prisoners who have been in prison for a long time and who have money to buy [work placements] in prison can earn money through bribes. For example, a man from Thaung Pyin village, Ye Township, who has been in prison for six years, bought a position serving food. He charges money when he serves food to prisoners. He gives little food to those cannot pay money.  Some prisoners have to ask for money from home to pay bribes for food. [The food server] sends the money he makes from prisoners back home. This kind of bribery happens in prison kitchens, and among food servers and gatekeepers”.

Returning to his relative Nai Ah Mile’s case, Nai Kyaw Win explained, “He still has to go to court. I think he will be put in jail for six months, but we are waiting to see how much more money we will have to bribe”.

HURFOM recently reported on bias and misconduct within law courts in Mudon Township, Mon State. Nai Kyaw Win’s testimony highlights how problems with Mon State’s justice system run deeper than this, affecting not only law courts but also law enforcement and prisons. Together, these reports indicate deep deficiencies with Mon State’s justice system, suggesting an urgent need for wide-ranging review and reform.

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