Ruling Party MP Investigated for Defaming Police

By Paul Vrieze & Htet Naing Zaw 4 February 2014

RANGOON — Shwe Maung, a ruling party parliamentarian representing the Rohingya majority township of Buthidaung in strife-torn Arakan State, said he was called in for questioning on Tuesday by the Home Affairs Ministry on allegations of defaming the Burmese police force and state.

He said he was being interrogated because of recent comments he gave to news agency Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), in which he suggested that police could have been responsible for the burning of 16 homes in Du Char Yar Tan village in Maungdaw Township on Jan. 28. The village is the site of the alleged killing of possibly dozens of Rohingya Muslims earlier last month.

Shwe Maung, a Lower House MP of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), said Union Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann had received a letter from President Thein Sein “requesting permission to meet and interrogate me and proceed according to laws.”

“[The] President’s letter describes that my DVB interview is defaming the state and Myanmar Police Force. The letter also describes that I am instigating conflicts,” Shwe Maung said in a statement on social media site Twitter on Tuesday. He said he met with Shwe Mann and agreed to be interrogated by Home Affairs Ministry officials at the USDP headquarters in Naypyidaw at 4 pm on Tuesday.

Shwe Maung could not be reached for further comment, but a fellow Lower House lawmaker said he had also heard about the investigation.

“Shwe Maung told me that he will be questioned by the police for misinforming DVB about the fire in Du Char Yar Tan village on Jan. 28,” said Rakhine National Development Party MP Phay Than.

As a lawmaker Shwe Maung enjoys a degree of parliamentary immunity and can only be interrogated or apprehended after approval by the Union Parliament Speaker.

Shwe Maung told DVB on Jan. 31 that the western part of Du Char Yar Tan village had been under police control on the night that the fire broke out, adding, “I have solid information from locals in nearby villages who phoned me and said they saw the police setting the houses on fire.” Maungdaw police have rejected the allegations.

In his statement, Shwe Maung defended his comments to DVB. “I never do anything to defame the State and Myanmar Police Force. What I do is for the good of my nation and people according to the Constitution and [Lower House] Law. I always emphasize stability, peaceful existence, development, rule of law, justice and equal rights.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has raised concerns over a possible massacre of dozens of Rohingya Muslims in Du Char Yar Tan village in Maungdaw Township by police and an Arakanese Buddhist mob on Jan.9-13 in an apparent retaliation for the disappearance of a policeman.

The central government and state authorities have, however, vehemently denied reports of the killings and insist that the villagers are responsible for the disappearance of a policeman who was attacked while patrolling the village on Jan. 9.