A former Democratic Voice of Burma reporter has decided not to pursue charges over what he says was a night of physical abuse and intimidation at the hands of Yangon police, but will instead lodge complaints with three international bodies, he told Coconuts Yangon today.
Ko Aung Soe Htike, now the owner of a tour company, was on his way to pick up his daughter in Ahlone Township on the evening of Nov. 9 when two plainclothes officers allegedly approached him on the street and demanded he accompany them.
When he asked where they were going, the pair told him to shut up and ordered him to follow them to the ward office.
After they arrived, two uniformed officers immediately handcuffed him and shoved him into a car, he claims. At this point, Ko Aung Soe Htike still hadn’t been offered an explanation for why he was being arrested, or where they were going.
“They treated me like I was already a defendant instead of just a suspect,” Ko Aung Soe Htike said in a phone interview with Coconuts Yangon yesterday.
What followed, he says, was four hours of detention in which they attempted to physically intimidate him into a confession.
“I felt like my world was going to end. They were threatening me and hitting me, and forcing me to confess,” he said.
“They asked me if I knew what I did, but when I was sitting in that room, I still didn’t know what I had [supposedly] done. They treated me like I was already guilty. They made me sit and kneel on the ground for 30 minutes.”
Ko Aung Soe Htike’s interrogation followed the theft of a phone from the Ahlone Administration Office. While CCTV footage showed a thief whose appearance was similar, he insists that a close examination showed that they were clearly different people.
The encounter ended only after his wife — whom he had called before his phone was confiscated — tracked him down with the help of two friends who negotiated his release after reviewing the footage with the township police chief.
“If they didn’t come look for me, I’m scared of thinking what might have happened to me. The police officers told my wife and friends that I wasn’t there yet they still stayed until 10:30pm when the township police chief came by.”
Attempts to reach the Ahlone Police Department for comment on the case were directed to the Yangon Region Police Media Office, which in turn directed media requests to Ahlone Police Chief, Ti Ti Myint. A call to the police chief resulted in a recommendation to call a number for the General Administration Department, which turned out to be a non-working number.
The case bears more than passing similarities to other accounts of alleged police misconduct reported by Coconuts Yangon in the past 12 months, including a Muslim poet’s harrowing encounter with police and a couple’s search for justice after the husband was allegedly assaulted by officers.
While numerous netizens commenting on a Facebook post about the case have encouraged Ko Aung Soe Htike to take legal action against the Myanmar Police Force, he told us this morning that won’t be happening.
According to Ko Aung Soe Htike, an apology they received from the Ahlone Police Department and offending police officers — and shared with local press at a press briefing outside police headquarters — will suffice.
Instead, they want larger structural changes to be enacted.
“We want to submit complaints to EU Human Rights Commission, EU-funded MYPOL project, and the Rule of Law Commission so that they can apply pressure on them to change.”