Police Allegedly Beat and Extort Villager in Arakan State

By Moe Myint 26 May 2016

RANGOON — Four police officers allegedly assaulted and extorted 100,000 kyats (US$85) from a resident of Kyan Khin village on Phayonka Island, located within Pauktaw Township of Arakan State.

The police officers beat and handcuffed the victim, Aye Thein Chay, 37, before demanding the bribe as a condition of his release, according to the testimony of a local resident and a state parliamentarian.

Aung Kyaw Htwe, an Arakan National Party (ANP) lawmaker representing Pauktaw Constituency (2) in the Arakan State parliament, spoke with The Irrawaddy on Thursday. He claimed that Aye Thein Chay was not guilty of any crime, but that Lt-Corp Than Htun and three other police officers had punched him and knocked him down.

At midnight on May 25, Aye Thein Chay was admitted to Pauktaw’s hospital for medical treatment. A case was filed on his behalf at the Pauktaw Township police station.

The ANP’s Aung Kyaw Htwe said the township police had informed him that the four offending police officers had already been summoned to the station, and would be charged with unethical conduct.

Aung Kyaw Htwe cited the words of Burma’s police chief Zaw Win, who had held a meeting at the office of the Rangoon Division government on Saturday to discuss the policies included in the police’s new 100-day plan. The police in Burma operate under the military-controlled Ministry of Home Affairs.

In response to the recent death of a suspect in police custody in Thaton town of Mon State, police chief Zaw Win warned his junior officers against “brutally investigating” suspects—and also forbade the taking of any bribes.

“Let us change and leave behind past practices,” the police chief had said, acknowledging previous abuses by Burma’s police force.

Thein Aung Kyaw, chief of Pauktaw Township Police, confirmed that the violent incident had taken place on May 25. He said that, on May 24, the victim Aye Thein Chay had had a confrontation with his wife, Hla Khin Ye, because she had signaled her intention to divorce him.

Thein Aung Kyaw said that, as the domestic quarrel intensified, four police officers arrived from neighboring Ngaratvat Chai village, where a police post is located. Aye Thein Chay was drunk and began verbally abusing the police officers in front of the assembled villagers, according to Thein Aung Kyaw.

This “humiliation” suffered by the police officers may have prompted them to beat Aye Thein Chay, even though he was already handcuffed, said Thein Aung Kyaw, who played down the severity of the injuries sustained.

Thein Aung Kyaw said they had recalled the policemen, but at the time of speaking they had not yet reached the Pauktaw police station—a 30 mile-distance from their sub-station in Ngaratvat Chai village. However, he would not comment on the alleged extortion of 100,000 kyats, and noted that this was not mentioned in the complaint filed on the victim’s behalf with the police.

Thein Aung Kyaw added that the Pauktaw Township Police had formed a committee to investigate the incident, which will begin its work soon.

A local resident of Kyan Khin village, Ngwe Thein Nu, 32, spoke with The Irrawaddy over the phone on Thursday. She confirmed that the victim Aye Thein Chay is still under medical care at Pauktaw hospital. She rejected the allegation that Aye Thein Chay was drunk during the incident.

Although Ngwe Thein Nu was not present, she claimed there were many eyewitnesses to the beating—which took place outside a local video hall—and the subsequent extortion of 100,000 kyats as a condition for releasing Aye Thein Chay from handcuffs. She claimed that the police officers had demanded the bribe to cover travel expenses to Kyan Khin village, although they estimated this at only 20,000 kyats (US$17).

The Irrawaddy tried to contact other witnesses to confirm the various allegations, but they could not be reached at the time of publication.

In October of 2015, a fisherman was allegedly killed by three police officers on Maday Island in Kyaukphyu Township, also in Arakan State. A verdict on the case subsequently filed against the police officers has not yet been reached.