Myanmar military still powerful
Myanmar ‘midnight inspections’ remnants of military rule 「午夜巡查」是緬甸軍事統治的遺風
The knock at the door of her family's home came without warning in the dead of night, just as it always did during Myanmar's long era of military rule. Outside, a group of government officials announced they had come to verify who was living there, citing a law that empowers the state to enter private homes any time they wish. When the woman opened the door, they hauled her son away. Such intrusions, known in the country as "midnight inspections," have declined dramatically since Myanmar's army ceded some power in 2011 and opened the country as never before. But the law that facilitates them is still on the books and being employed to suppress dissent. It's just one facet of the massive power the military continues to wield here despite the country's much-touted transition from the junta rule.
"They knocked on the door saying they needed to conduct a midnight inspection, but when we opened it, they took my son," the distraught mother said of the recent 1 a.m. visit. The woman spoke on condition of anonymity because she feared for both her safety and that of her son. Several of those detained recently had been deemed sympathetic to students whose protests against a new education law were brutally crushed by police this month.
The legislation allowing "midnight inspections," known as the "Ward or Village Tract Administration Law," has been on Myanmar's books for nearly a century, since British colonial times. It was adopted by successive military juntas, which used it to monitor political opponents and restricting their movements, helping smother pro-democracy uprisings in 1988 and 2007. The law requires families to obtain permission from the state to host guests in their own homes. In the impoverished Yangon neighborhood of Dala, residents say administrators drive around on rickshaws equipped with speakers reminding people to register guests or "face charges according to the law." Violations are punishable by seven-day jail terms and fines of about US$50.
The law gives administrators the right to examine "the places needed" to ensure compliance, paving the way for "midnight inspections." This grants local officials "almost boundless authority" over their subjects, according to the Bangkok-based advocacy group Fortify Rights, which is releasing a report called "Midnight Intrusions" urging the government to dismantle the law. The group says the law "represents a systematic and nationwide breach of privacy."