‘Respect the law and follow the rules’, Suu Kyi tells man concerned about crime

A lack of police officers and poor funding is to blame for weak rule of law and high crime rates across Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi has said.

The State Counsellor was responding to a question from a member of the public during a town hall meeting in the border town of Myawaddy on Thursday.

Local resident Win Naing Oo, who was among dozens who submitted questions ahead of the visit, asked why drug abuse, gambling and petty theft had not been curbed in the town in eastern Karen state.

With 84,000 officers nationwide, Myanmar is considered to have less than half the number of police it needs for its population.

United Nations guidelines suggest governments should hire 222 officers for every 100,000 citizens.

A quarter of Myanmar’s officers have been deployed to Rakhine state because of the conflict there, Suu Kyi said in Myawaddy.

She also flaunted her maternalistic leadership style by telling the audience that they shared responsibility for maintaining law and order.

“If you want rule of law, you are also required to respect the law as much as you can,” she said. “Always follow the rules.”

Khin Htar, managing director of the Child Care Foundation, a local NGO, said the government should work with civil society groups to tackle social problems that lead to crime.

Myawaddy has had problems with drug abuse for the past 10 years, Khin Htar said, and she has noticed a spike in gambling since 2014.

Youth under the age of 18 were particularly prone to gambling and drug abuse, making them more likely to commit crimes to fund their habits, she added.

Her organisation has helped over 100 drug addicts to recover, she said, more than half of whom were aged between 12 and 18.

Khin Htar says she tried unsuccessfully to arrange a meeting with Suu Kyi during her visit. “I wanted to tell Mother Daw Aung San Suu Kyi about the situation on the ground here but I couldn’t,” she said.

Myawaddy, which borders Thailand’s Mae Sot, is a safe haven for a multitude of armed groups, including the Tatmadaw-backed Border Guard Force.

The State Counsellor also took questions about land disputes, road safety and garbage problems at the town hall, which was attended by more than 10,000 residents.

Her trip there was one of several she has made recently to towns across the country to field questions from the public.

Sandar Nyan reporting from Myawaddy

Translated by Nyunt Win

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