NLD Lawmaker Asks Why Myanmar’s Fugitives Can Evade Justice 

By San Yamin Aung 6 November 2019

YANGON – A National League for Democracy (NLD) Upper House parliamentarian has asked why so few criminals fear arrest, adding that it undermined the rule of law.

U Tun Tun Oo said an increasing number of people facing arrest warrants disregarded the law and went into hiding, which damaged the reputation of the judiciary. He also questioned plans to address the issue.

He cited the cases of ultranationalist monk U Wirathu and a former parliamentarian, ex-lieutenant colonel Hla Swe, who were charged with sedition and have been on the run since May and August respectively. The chairman of the National Prosperity gold mining company, Soe Tun Shein, had been on the run for over a year until his apprehension on Wednesday. The judiciary and government officials have been accused of corruption in relation to the case, he added.

According to Myanmar’s police, 20 suspects, including judges, administrators, the head of a police station, public prosecutors and lawyers, are all on a list of fugitives suspected of corruption released in June. Many of them were charged in 2017 and 2018 but four were charged in 2014 and 2015.

“If we look into the cases, we can see the negligence of the police, law officers, attorneys and judges,” U Tun Tun Oo said.

In the most high-profile case in the country’s recent history, the murder of prominent lawyer U Ko Ni in January 2017, the alleged mastermind of the assassination, Aung Win Khaing, a former lieutenant colonel, remains at large after fleeing—at least initially—to Naypyitaw, which has the most extensive surveillance network in Myanmar.

U Tun Tun Oo also referred to a nationalist charged with incitement to commit violence as an example. The wanted nationalist, who was involved in a confrontation between Buddhists and Muslims in Yangon’s Mingalar Taung Nyunt Township, appeared at a public rally following the event but the police failed to apprehend him, the parliamentarian added. Several other people involved in the case, including two radical monks, were arrested a few days after the event.

In the case of fugitive Soe Tun Shein, Myanmar Now reported on Oct. 14 that he was seen at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport, according to someone who noticed him and took photos of the suspect and the vehicle in which he left the airport.

According to the lawmaker, the public wanted to know how the fugitive fled to Bangkok without being arrested. He was finally arrested Wednesday.

Under the penal code, the intentional failure to apprehend a fugitive can result in prosecution, U Tun Tun Oo told Parliament.

In reply, Supreme Court judge U Myo Tint told Parliament yesterday that court orders remained active until suspects were apprehended, adding that any citizen could arrest a fugitive.

He suggested the police do more to educate the public to raise collaboration among citizens and the authorities in arresting fugitives from justice.

“The law is comprehensive regarding taking action against fugitives. The courts are responsible for issuing arrest warrants, ordering legal warrants of attachment and seizures… In bringing fugitives to prison, police officers are the arms and legs of the courts,” U Myo Tint said.