Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Burma: Plant - arrest - extort

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The police in Maungdaw Town, Arakan State have been making arbitrary arrests for extortion by planting Bangladeshi mobile phones in the victims' house and shops. On February 7 and 10, police arrested two men on the accusation of keeping Bangladeshi mobile phones. It is illegal in Burma to have phones without permission of the authorities.

The victims have been identified as Abul Kasim (55), son of Motu Chadar, hailing from Naya Para village and Abdullah (20), son of Abdul Matalab, belonging to Ward No.4 in Maungdaw Town, according to village a elder who requated anonymity.

Since last year, arbitrary extortion for money has been increased significantly in the Rohingya community by the police on false and fabricated cases. The victims complained to the higher authorities, but they paid no heed, so the police personnel are emboldened to commit more such crimes against the Rohingya community.

On February 7, Abul Kasim was arrested by police on the accusation of having a Bangladeshi mobile phone. It had been planted secretly in his house through a police agent before his arrest. He was brought to Maungdaw police station and kept in police custody and asked to pay kyat 600,000 for his release. But the victim was unable to pay, according to a close relative of the victim.

Similarly, on February 8 at about noon, Abdullah was arrested on the accusation of keeping a Bangladeshi mobile phone in his shop. At about 11 am, two police personnel in civilian dress went to his tea shop for tea. After having tea, one of them went to the cash counter to pay while another one secretly put a mobile phone on the owner's carton of condensed milk tins, a relative of the victim said.

It is learnt that most of tea-shop owners in Maungdaw town, keep cartons of condensed milk tins near the cashier to provide it to workers to keep a check on use and misuse.

After 15 minute, a police officer Nyi Nyi Hlwin Soe accompanied by three other policemen went to the Abdullah's tea shop and asked the tea-shop owner Abdullah why he had a Bangladesh mobile phone in his shop. He told themthat he had no phone. After hearing this, the police officer along with three others searched the cartons and found a mobile phone. Abdullah was brought to Maungdaw police station and is still in police custody.

The victim passed matriculation examinations but could not study further so he set up a tea-shop at Maungdaw market. He is innocent. However, the police officer demanded kyat 50,000 from the victim's father for his release. But his father refused to pay for his son's release, said a neighbour of the victim.

A friend of the victim said, "The victim's father doesn't want to compromise with the police as his son is innocent. He will raise the issue to with the higher authorities for justice."

According to sources, in Maungdaw Township, a gang of policemen has been extorting money from the Rohingya community since last year on false and fabricated cases. The charges are numerous like having a Bangladeshi mobile phone, involvement in human trafficking, Yaba tablet business and crossing the Burma- Bangladesh border r--- and have extorted at least kyat O.5 million to 3 million per head.

The police gang is identified has been identified as Major Aung Htwe, the SP of Maungdaw district, U Thin Tin, the ASP of Maungdaw police station and also head of the police surveillance group and Khin Maung police personnel among others, said sources.

In Maungdaw police station, the daily income is at least one crore. Every policeman has a motorcycle, and their wives have a lot of gold ornaments because they became rich very quickly. The SP and ASP of Maungdaw town have to pay kyat 5 million each to the district police officer per month as well as kyat 5 million to the state officer of police, said a close aide of police officer.