The following statement was released by Myanmar punk band Rebel Riot in regards the recent arrest of two punks for having a couple beer cans found:
“Lanmadaw Tazaungdine Street Market is celebrated every year in Myanmar. This year, we held a stall there to sell our handmade punk clothing, bags and accessories at the annual market. For us, this is not only a place to sell stuff but also a place of solidarity where we distribute on a weekly basis to homeless people and children, and workers who collect garbage and repair roads. During the days of the festival, our shop attracts a lot of customers, and people who want to take photos with us and join our conversation. As part of the festival vibe, people from all walks of life gather to try different foods and drinks, and to enjoy the live music coming from the stage.
Unfortunately, on the final day of this festival, some police officers came into our shop and found some beer cans under a table of our merchandise. They arrested two of us for drinking without permission, although this was no different to the behavior of many other festival-goers. We were taken to the police station, and had a case filed against us before being put into a cell. Friends came in our support, and tried to communicate with the police to guarantee that this would not happen again but were ordered to report to the chief township officer instead. Our friends followed this instruction but were denied assistance, and told to return to the original police station.
Our case is not a murder case, or a rape case. Generally, small cases like ours are forgivable by law if there is a guarantor but at all instances we were denied this basic right as citizens. We were not the only people consuming alcohol at the festival, and believe that we have been the targets of active discrimination. Furthermore, the police who arrested us were not sober themselves, and one was wobbling from side to side as he walked around the street market. If laws about arresting people consuming alcohol during the festival, the cells of police stations cannot fit such large crowds, particularly including police officers.
While we were detained, some officers humiliated us for the way we dress, touching our heads in a way disrespectful with local and religious customs, and threatened to cut our hair. We were held at the first jail overnight, before being taken to another jail the following day, and finally being released around 5pm that afternoon.
We would like to speak to the public to say that we are strongly against systems which abuse power, and we acknowledge that there are other young people, often without knowledge of the way legal systems work, that have been forced and threatened by people in power, which has often resulted in the payment of bribes. We take this position not for our own fame or profit, but because this is an ongoing problem for all alternative people. Just because we have tattoos, piercings, mohawks, different fashion and musical taste does not mean that police should arrest us out of hatred. To avoid further problems like this, police must respect the law. Punk, our way of life, is not a crime. We hope that through dialogue and solidarity we can build more positive perspectives about alternative people in the future.”
Mar Naw & Friends