Police hit bribery whistleblower with five charges

By MRATT KYAW THU | FRONTIER

YANGON — Police have invoked a rarely used restriction of movement law ­to detain a man who last week accused an assistant to Yangon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein of bribery.

Ko Michael Kyaw Myint was arrested on June 3, a day after telling reporters that he had paid K1.2 million (about US$900) to a government official to secure the return of confiscated land in North Dagon Township to two farmers. He said that although he paid the money the government then awarded the land to a construction company instead.

Michael Kyaw Myint has been hit with five charges across three townships, including defamation and staging an illegal protest. He is due to appear in court on June 9.

He is facing a charge of holding an illegal demonstration in Tarmwe Township under section 19 of the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law and of defamation under section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law in Dagon Township.

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Both appear directly related to the press conference, with the defamation charge brought about by a complaint to police submitted by U Moe Hein, a director in Phyo Min Thein’s office.

But Michael Kyaw Myint is also facing three charges under sections 5.1(b), (f) and (g) of Restriction of Movement and Probation of Habitual Offenders Act of 1961. The charge was brought about by a complaint from North Dagon’s township administrator, and relates to drunk and disorderly conduct.

Lawyer Robert San Aung told Frontier he was surprised at the charges being levelled against Michael Kyaw Myint.

“I don’t understand why they sued him with 66(d). They sued him with [section] 19 in another township. Now it’s 5.1(b), which is rarely used by police,” he said.

Michael Kyaw Myint was originally detained at Tarmwe police station on June 3 on the section 19 charge. Although he was released on bail the same day, he was later detained at North Dagon police station, his wife, Ma Aye Aye Thin, told Frontier.

He was held there for two nights, during which she was able to visit him. On June 5, he was then transferred to Dagon Township, she said.

The government is yet to officially respond to the bribery accusations. The 66(d) complaint was submitted to police by U Moe Hein, a director in the office of chief minister Phyo Min Thein. It is unclear whether the regional government also filed the illegal protest complaint.

Michael Kyaw Myint initially announced that he would hold a press conference at Royal Rose restaurant in Bahan Township, but the restaurant later cancelled the event under pressure from the authorities. After Yuzana Hotel refused to host the event, he addressed reporters at Bo Sein Hman ground in Tarmwe Township, which is often used for public protests.

The press conference was attended by police and local officials from the military-controlled General Administration Department.

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