16 arrested in Yangon after midnight inspection
Complaints to the police by local nationalists led to the detention of 16 people, including a number of Muslims studying the Koran, in Thingangyun township.
SIXTEEN people, including a number of Muslims studying the Koran, were detained in Thingangyun township, Yangon Region, after complaints to the police by local nationalists. The police were acting under a “midnight inspections” law now under review in parliament because of its use by the former military regime to suppress dissent.
The case came before Thingangyun Township Court on August 8, when the 16 appeared on charges under the 1949 Residents of Burma Registration Act. The court allowed them bail only after a local MP warned that detaining them further could lead to unrest.
The arrests followed complaints from the nationalist organisation Myanmar National Network, said its representative Ko Win Ko Ko Latt. The MMN had insisted that police take action under the controversial law, which carries penalties of up to two years’ imprisonment, with hard labour.
The visitors were detected by three local officials – township administration officer U San Myint, immigration and national registration department officer U Nann Myint and Police Major Thet Naing Tun – who found Aung Myint Cho and nine others in his house during a check of the ward.
U Nann Myint applied to the court under sections 6(2) and 6(3) of the law.
A subsequent inspection discovered San San Win and five others persons, who were accused of the same offence. In each case, some of the overnight visitors were Muslims.
At their initial court hearing on August 8 the defendants were denied bail because they could not produce the necessary documentation.
Local MP U Maung Maung Oo (NLD; Thingangyun 2) told The Myanmar Times, “The visitors are Muslim students from the local religious school, as well as some from nearby townships. About half the defendants appear to be Muslims.
“A group of people gathered outside the court to protest against the refusal to grant bail. I told the judge there would be unrest if the defendants were not freed. The judge granted bail after I undertook to ensure that the necessary documents would be produced.”
The defendants have to reappear in court on August 17.
Myanmar National Network spokesperson Ko Win Ko Ko Latt said his organisation discovered the 16 when they were following up a warrant in an unrelated murder case. Police took action under the 1949 law only after his supporters gathered outside the local police station.
Thingangyun township’s other Yangon Region MP, Nay Phone Latt (NLD; Thingangyun 1), took to social media to warn residents not to be swayed by the views of hardliners. “We want to get this sorted out. The visitors were just personal friends, but the nationalists whipped this up online as a racial and religious case to try to cause trouble.”
Township administrators brought in senior monks in the Sangha Nayaka religious affairs committee in an effort to restore calm after nationalist monks became involved in the affair.
“They carried the senior monks to the township to control the other monks. The senior monks interceded with the police to help resolve the situation,” said Myanmar National Network representative Ko Naung Taw Lay.
He added, “We took action to make sure there would be no trouble. It’s not true we were carrying sticks and knives. We only got involved because the authorities were taking no action. Now that the defendants have appeared in court we don’t have to go any further.”
Police conduct a late-night drill in Yangon.