Burmese gay rights activists are preparing to file a lawsuit against Mandalay police officers who allegedly harassed them during their recent detention.
“We are now discussing with the lawyers to submit the case next week. We have to do this because the police mistreated the detainees, which is beyond the limits of their responsibilities,” said Aung Myo Min, director of Equality Myanmar, a group that promotes human rights as well as gay and lesbian rights.
He said the abusive handling of the detainees by police had become a “tradition” for law enforcement authorities across Burma.
“If the court accepts the case, it will show that there are rules of law in the country. Many detainees, not only gays, are being abused by the police and these actions tarnish the image of the police. Such actions must stop,” Aung Myo Min added.
On July 6, 12 homosexuals were arrested near Mandalay’s Sedona Hotel, a spot popular for its scenic views of the city’s ancient moat and Mandalay Hill. It is also an area where homosexuals and other transgender sex workers are known to gather.
The detainees told The Irrawaddy last week that after the arrest, they were abused verbally and physically. Police officers allegedly beat the detainees and forced them to do frog jumps and act as though walking a catwalk, before being put into cells for about four hours.
The criminal status of the detainees remains unclear, but all 12 were released on bail after they agreed to sign an agreement stating that they would not dress like women and would stay away from the area where they were arrested, according to one of the detainees.
Police have denied any wrongdoing and maintain that the officers had handled their law enforcement obligations professionally.
“We were just carrying out our duties. Since they are men, we must not let them go into men’s cells with wigs, bras, condoms and women’s attire. So we had to take them all off. We have much evidence to prove this, however, I have nothing to say about being accused of abusing them,” said Soe Nyein, a Mandalay Division police officer.
According to the police, complaints about homosexuals causing disturbances in the area were raised by the public and prompted the police action.
“There are many complaints that they are shouting and disturbing the public who come to the area to relax,” Soe Nyein said, adding that cross-dressing men were known to rob unsuspecting victims.
“To prevent such things, we are just giving them a warning.”