Monday, May 25, 2009

Burmese Officials Take Bangladesh Mobile Phones as Bribes

Maungdaw (Narinjara): Bangladesh-network mobile phones have become a valuable commodity in soliciting bribes by Burmese officials on the western border, said a local resident.

He said, "At least 100,000 kyats have to be paid to Burmese officials whenever a mobile phone is seized on the western Burmese border."

If the mobile phone holders are unable to pay the requested bribe, authorities typically punish them with long prison terms.

"Many mobile phone holders have faced long terms in prison, from two to three years, as they could not pay the bribe to officials when their phones were seized by the authorities," the resident added.

Recently two Muslim youths - Muhmad Rofit, son of Au Lar Myar, and Muhamad Toyu, son of Habet Ahmout from Mae Di Village in Kun Thee Bin Village Tract in Taungbro - were facing potential prison terms but the youths' families have arranged to pay a bribe to local army officials.

According to a family source, and intelligence officer, Kyaw Myo Lat from Taungbro Wave Left in Nasaka Area No. 3, seized two mobile phone sets from the youths on 20 May, 2009. After seizing the mobile phones, Kyaw Myo Lat asked for 100,000 kyat from each youth.

The resident said, "If the youths can not pay the money, they will be sent to the police station and punished with long prison terms."

Burma does not allow the use of Bangladesh-network mobile phone in Burmese territory, but many people in Maungdaw and Buthidaung Townships are using the phones in secret. It is estimated that over 10,000 Bangladesh mobile phones are being used illegally by locals in the western Burmese border area.

"Bangladesh-network phone sets and sim cards are very cheap, so Burmese people can easily use them on the Burmese side. In our country, mobile phones are very expensive and ordinary people are unable to use Burma-network mobile phones because the price is so high," the resident said.

Burmese mobile phones such as CDMA phones cost at least 1.6 million kyat in Maungdaw, while the same phones are only 50,000 kyat in Bangladesh.

Even though Burmese authorities seize Bangladesh-network mobile phones from locals, a number of Burmese military officials on the western border, including Nasaka Chief Colonel Aung Gyi and the Maungdaw district chairman, have been using Bangladesh mobile phones for their own communications. #

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