Tag Archives: Penal Code

Prosecute the PAD

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[Die rechtliche Verfolgung der Taten der PAD]

According to news from Thailand this week [of December 18], police are set to lay charges against protestors responsible for blockading parliament after the leader of the main opposition party finally succeeded in becoming prime minister without having to win an election.

News reports said that police were compiling video footage and other evidence of demonstrators that threw rocks at vehicles, assaulted passerby, damaged public property and kept parliamentarians trapped within the legislature.

These are serious offences and if the police have the evidence they need, they should certainly try to prosecute. But the crimes of this group pale by comparison to the scale of criminality demonstrated by their opponents, those who occupied Government House for three months from August, and the two main airports for a week from the end of November.

In fact, the number of serious crimes committed under the banner of the group calling itself the People’s Alliance for Democracy is so large that it’s hard to imagine police officers even having time to investigate the melee outside parliament on Monday. Continue reading

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“Only for questioning” and the disavowal of law

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At a meeting in Singapore last week, Burma’s deputy defense minister iterated that persons taken into custody over the protests in his country of recent months had not been arrested but held “only for questioning.”

Perhaps because it was intended to deflect censure, this audacious remark didn’t get much notice. That’s unfortunate, because it implies a great deal both about how the junta thinks and how it operates.

Where does “only for questioning” fall under the law? If people are arrested, then criminal procedure applies. Police must lay charges and bring the accused before courts. But if someone has not been arrested, nor held according to established practice, then what is there?

If the military regime had even pretended to play by its own rules, then lawyers and relatives could have sought access to detainees according to those. If it had declared an emergency or otherwise sought to bypass ordinary law through formal announcement, then this could have been critiqued and campaigned against.

But dragging people from streets and houses with the help of assorted thugs and unidentified officers denies all recourse. “Only for questioning” is a blank wall, a legal void, a disavowal of everything.

Among those taken “only for questioning” was comedian Par Par Lay. Unlike some, he was released at the end of October, although being famous didn’t spare him from torture, as he told the Burmese service of the Voice of America: Continue reading

A wedding video & an injustice system

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The wedding video of a Burmese general’s daughter has proved a surprise hit. Footage of Thandar Shwe’s glittering marriage ceremony (right) has since last July been watched around the country on black market CDs, and globally on You Tube and news broadcasts. It has shocked viewers unaccustomed to seeing firsthand the sheer extravagance enjoyed by an otherwise inaccessible elite. In some versions, it has been cut to incorporate scenes of abject poverty in and around Rangoon’s streets, in contrast to those of diamonds and champagne behind its walls.

One person who had copies was Ko Than Htun. Acting on a tip-off, in March a team of police raided his house and charged him with possessing videos that had not been approved by the board of censors. He was initially released on bail but later rearrested. Shortly thereafter police claiming to have information from Than Htun arrived at the house of Ko Tin Htay, who lives in the same township. Entering without a search warrant, they found nothing. They called him to the station on a pretext and arrested him there. The following day the local ruling council met and decided that both men should be charged with intent to cause public alarm.

In court, the police produced a statement taken from Ko Tin Htay and used it against him as evidence, which is illegal. Absurdly, they also produced a photograph of Aung San, Burma’s independence hero and father of democracy party leader Aung San Suu Kyi, to demonstrate that Tin Htay is politically active: a point anyhow irrelevant to the charges against the accused. Nonetheless, both Than Htun and Tin Htay were found guilty and sentenced respectively to over four years and two years in prison with hard labor. They have since been transferred away from their hometown and reportedly denied access to their families.

Two features of the case point to how years of dictatorship have thoroughly corrupted criminal law and procedure in Burma.

Continue reading