The Myanmar Times
The Myanmar Times

Police swoop on gang bosses in Yangon

A police crackdown focused on Yangon’s notorious township of Hlaing Tharyar has netted nine suspected criminal gang leaders, including opium smugglers and the owner of a gambling den.

Nine suspects related to a Hlaing Tharyar gang were arrested on January 19.SuppliedNine suspects related to a Hlaing Tharyar gang were arrested on January 19.Supplied

Colonel Myint Lwin, head of northern district police force, said the operation began on the night of January 19. Arrest warrants were out for 11 “notorious” people and so far eight men and one woman have been seized.

One of the arrested was named as U Win Naing, a suspected gang boss involved in gambling and opium smuggling who on social media is known as a benefactor of a local pagoda. At least two of those arrested were found in Shwe Pyi Thar township.

Colonel Tin Aung Tun, Yangon Region minister for security and border affairs, said police had extended their operations in wards and villages of Hlaing Tharyar, which he described as a “den of the gangs of bad guys”. Yangon Region Chief Minister U Myint Swe had ordered the operation, he said.

Yangon Region police force admitted on its Facebook page that the special operations had been ordered because of posts and photos spreading on social media complaining about drug dealing and gambling in Hlaing Tharyar allegedly run by U Win Naing and U Khin Sein. This could make people feel insecure and affect stability and rule of law, police said.

The explanation drew ridicule from some readers. “Do you guys arrest them only when reported on Facebook?” asked one social media user on the Yangon Police Facebook page.

Colonel Myint Lwin described 44-year-old U Win Naing as “leader of the bad guys” who had been hired by landowners to expel squatters from their land.

“Their gang is well known after destroying squatters’ huts and taking money there,” the colonel said.

Hlaing Tharyar, with a population close to 700,000, is by far Myanmar’s biggest and most densely populated township, bursting with migrant workers and shanties, drawn by Yangon’s rapid growth and industrialisation.

 Translation by Thiri Min Htun