In late March, I was part of a contingent of journalists who travelled to Chin State, to cover a community-based tourism project that was being launched at Taisun village, Falam Township.
By SU MYAT MON | FRONTIER
I WAS INCREDIBLY excited to travel to the mountainous state, one of the few parts of the country I hadn’t been to. In fact, just a few days before I found out about the trip, I had been speaking with colleagues about how much I wanted to visit Chin State.
Unfortunately, an encounter I had with a police officer during the trip was incredibly upsetting, and highlighted some of the hostility journalists – and particularly female journalists – continue to face.
During the trip, in the early evening, I was interviewing senior members of the Chin State government about the tourism project.
Shortly after my interviews finished, I was approached by a junior police officer who asked me a series of questions about me and my work. I initially told the police officer that I did not need to give him that information, but keen to avoid a confrontation, I eventually relented and answered his questions.
About 20 minutes after that experience, a different police officer approached me and began asking the same questions. From his bloodshot eyes and the smell of alcohol on his breath, he appeared to be drunk.
I refused to answer his questions, but he continued to harass me. He told me that authorities had the right to know who I was because I was travelling in Chin State. I again told him that I didn’t need to provide him with this information, and turned away from him.
Later in the evening when we were visiting a new museum that was being established in the village, the drunk police officer approached me again as I was taking photos. He asked me more questions in an aggressive manner. Frustrated, I warned him again not to disturb me and moved away from him once more.
During another stop on the trip, I made sure that I was standing far away from the drunk officer, but he sought me out.
He mocked me for crossing my arms, and said that only Alaungpaya, an ancient Myanmar king, could fold his arms in the manner I was.
The other police officers stood by him laughed at his comments, and I immediately told the officers that they should stop harassing me.
They immediately denied that it was a form of harassment, and in fact said that the comments were aimed at different police officers.
This was not true.
The behaviour of the police officers was entirely unprofessional, and none of them reprimanded their fellow officer for his behaviour, even though it was obvious what was happening.
Police are supposed to protect us citizens, not harass someone who is trying to do their job.