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 China Post - - GUIDE POST -

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."












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