Ye Ta Khon Plantation Owners Experience Unyielding Extortion by the Karen ceasefire armed group

February 26, 2014

Various leaders believed to be from one of the Karen ceasefire armed groups have been extorting money from local land owners in Ye Tagon village, Thanbyuzayat Township, Mon State. According to local sources, government officials – including upper-level authorities – have ignored the problem, despite having been informed of the corruption by local plantation owners.

On February 21, 2013, local Karen people, believed to be commanded by the Karen ceasefire armed group, visited Ye Tagon and collected 100,000 kyat per acre from each rubber plantation in the village. Last week roughly twenty land owners, whose plantations are located throughout the Ye Tagon area, were extorted by the Karen ceasefire armed group.

Nai Lay Mar, a plantation owner from Ye Tagon, recounts that, “When collecting the money, they [Karen people] said the plantation had belonged to their great grandparents, [and] that [is] why they collected the money”. Nai Lay Mar explained that if the plantation owners failed to pay the local Karen people, “they would inform the Karen ceasefire armed group to sue us [plantation owners]”. Nai Lay Mar notes that some land owners have paid the extortion fees, and others have not yet paid.

In January 2014, Lieutenant Lay Wa, from one of the Karen ceasefire armed groups, led a group of local Karen people to various plantations to demand 100,000 kyat per acre from 100 acres of rubber plantation. Previously, the Karen ceasefire armed group along with the village administrator, township forest department, and township judge U Saw Hla Aung called on land owners and demanded money in mid-2013.

In 2013, the Karen ceasefire armed group demanded 110,000 kyat per acre from villagers in a Pa Na village, Thanbyuzayat Township, Mon State. The armed group extorted 4.4 million kyat from Nai Ba Shein for his 40 acres of rubber plantation, 3.3 million kyat from Dr. Nai Myint Oo for his 30 acres, 2.7 million kyat from Nai Myint Aung, 1.1 million kyat each from Nai Cartoon and Nai Maung Kyi, 3.3 million kyat from Nai Kyin Lay, and 550,000 kyat from Mi Wat, for a total of 16.45 billion kyat (US$ 16,700).

Local plantation owners have informed upper-level government authorities, as well as the New Mon State Party (NMSP) of the arbitrary extortion practices of the Karen ceasefire armed group, but no action has been taken and the situation remains the same.

Beyond extortion, the Karen ceasefire armed group also unjustly arrested five rubber plantation workers in January, due to plantation issues. The victims were released after the Moulamein District secretary Nai Aung Ma Ngay delivered a letter to responsible parties at the Karen ceasefire armed group.

After the NMSP signed the first ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government in 1995, the government allowed ethnic armed groups to use 2000 acres of land in Ye Tagon for development projects. General Thiha Thura Sit Maung offered the land at a low price to wealthy Mon people, who then sold the land at normal prices.

In 2012 and 2013, Karen people arrived in the area, and Lieutenant Lay Wa was appointed as leader of one of the Karen ceasefire armed groups in Ye Tagon, Thanbyuzayat Township. Lieutenant Lay Wa sued the plantation owners who had bought their land from the wealthy Mon, forcing them to pay 110,000 kyat per acre. This practice is still continuing today.

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