Kyon Karoat villagers poised to protest local corruption

November 29, 2012

HURFOM: Nestled among wide stretches of rubber plantations and durian orchards, Kyon Karoat Village in southwestern Thanbyuzayat Township, Mon State, is home to hundreds of families. While news of the democratic transition in Burma, also known as Myanmar, has reached the local residents, many recently reported being unable to fully enjoy the promise of reforms due to an ongoing struggle against corruption in their own hometown.

For the past seven years, village administrator Nai Mon Chan has held the top leadership position in Kyon Karoat. Residents allege that the long-standing community head has employed a number of fraudulent taxation schemes estimated to have garnered more than 10 million kyat. After years of paying taxes to fund “community services” that have not materialized, residents are demanding that Nai Mon Chan finally account for the mislaid funds.

Kyon Karoat villagers have repeatedly submitted letters to township authorities since July bearing the signatures of 80 local people and urging the removal of the village leader, but have yet to receive a reply. Locals assert that if their appeals continue to be neglected, they plan to request permission from Thanbyuzayat city officials to publicly protest the issue.

According to the petition letter authored and distributed by the residents, in 2008, the administrator decreed that any villager who had built a new home since 2005 was required to pay a fee of 90,000 kyat. A local “teacher support” tax instituted in 2009 collected between 1,000 and 35,000 kyat per household for a total approximated revenue of 4 million kyat. The letter also described how gambling has been allowed for the purpose of “raising community funds” by charging gambling operators a “security tax” in exchange for protection from township-level law enforcement. However, residents contend that the village has seen no improvements as a result of these sizeable proceeds, and claim their requests for a change in leadership seem to be systematically ignored.

“Because of this situation, we face many difficulties in the village. Although we already submitted the letter [of appeal], the township authorities disregarded it. We submitted the letter again, but the township authorities just summoned us to say that they already sent the letter to the state authorities. We went to the state authorities to find out whether the letter was delivered, and discovered that the letter was not in their [possession]. If township authorities do not act on our behalf, we will submit the letter to Nay Pyi Taw,” said a Kyon Karoat villager on condition of anonymity.

Local residents Nai Htun Nge, Nai Win Htwe, and Nai Zaw Naing Lin are credited with preparing the letter in opposition of village administrator Nai Mon Chan and the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) members thought to be cooperating with him, Nai Than Soe, Nai Yin, and Nai Khaing Win.

According to villager Nai Tun, “To promote progress in our village, we need a change because the current leader is very corrupt. He has worked [here] for seven years, and our village is in worse condition [than before]. If the administrator can be replaced, it will be better for our village.”

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