Threat and extortion at the hands of Mon splinter group

April 21, 2014

 

Refusing to be extorted, the ethnic Mon community living in Ye Township, Mon State, located in southern Burma, lives in fear of being subjected to torture and kidnappings by a local Mon splinter group. Though Burmese military bases are located throughout the area, such incidents of torture and kidnapping are largely left unresolved. In the country’s transition to a democratic society, Mon people continue to confront threats of kidnapping, physical assault, and demands of extortion from members of their own ethnic community, as well from as the Burmese military.

On March 27, 2014, a Mon splinter group, believed to be led by Nai Lwin, delivered a letter to Khaw Zar City’s monastery supporters, who work in, and support, the city’s two monasteries in Ye Township, demanding the collection of money from villagers. The group ordered each monastery to collect 20 million kyat from the villagers, under the assertion that the money would go to construction costs for building and extending the temple and monastery. The group gave a phone number to the monastery supporters with which they were to make contact once the money was collected.

Monastery supports allege that the demand of 40 million kyat is not, in fact, related to monastery funds. When the supporters informed the group that they did not want to collect the money, the splinter group warned that it would not be their fault if something bad happens to the villagers, since the group had “asked politely”.

The monastery supporters informed the military based located in Khaw Zar sub-township of the group’s threats, because they know that if they did not tell the Burmese military of the demands, the military would accuse the villagers of colluding with the splinter group.

In the past, after being informed, the Burmese military tried to ban villagers from going to their plantations, and blamed them if they paid the splinter group. With this recent threat, the military has not formally interfered with villagers traveling to their plantations, but some Burmese soldiers have been patrolling at night, leaving most residents afraid of leaving their village, even during the day.

The Mon splinter group has not entered the village yet, but many village and monastery supporters are frightened that the group will harm members of their community, and many local people assume that the group has been in Khaw Zar sub-township.

“We, all villagers, are very frightened”, says a woman from Khaw Zar Town, “We do not dare go outside our village recently. My husband has no courage to [travel] to our plantation. Some villagers did go to their plantations, so we were hoping to see them when they get back, to see if they are in fear. The [monastery] supporters also worry when the group will pull (kidnap) them. If we did not inform the Burmese military, we would be blamed for that. We also heard that other villagers, Han Gan and Kaw Hlaing, already paid the group”.

Having already paid the demanded sum, residents from villages such as Han Gan and Kaw Hlaing do not have to fear for their security. Other villagers continue to worry for their safety. In a recent incident, one villager from Ka Pyar Kyi village, in Khaw Zar sub-township, was kidnapped on April 6th, by the aforementioned Mon splinter group, because the villagers of Ka Pyar Kyi village failed to pay the 2.5 million kyat which the group had demanded. If they are not able to pay the demanded 40 million kyat, Khaw Zar residents know they face possible kidnapping and, or, torture, and fear for their lives.

In September of last year, the same Mon splinter group approached villagers and demanded large sums of money from Sein Pon, Yay Ngan Gyi, Kyauk Kadin, and Pha Yar Tone Zuu villages in Yebyu Township, Tenasserim Region. According to local reports, over the past ten years, the Mon splinter group has demanded money from Alesaka Kyauk Ta Lin, Sein Pon, Yay Ngan Gyi, Min Tar, Pha Yar Tone Zuu, Kyauk Kadin, and other villages located in Yebyu Township.

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