Unknown Karen armed groups extort taxes from Mon farmers

January 14, 2015

Unknown Karen armed groups are demanding taxes from local rubber farmers, once again, in eastern Wae Ka Li Village, Thanbyuzayat Township, according to a local farmer.

“A week ago, an armed group consisting of three Karen men in full military uniform, but without military arm bands, holding assault rifles and a carbine, extorted taxes from plantation owners at 50,000 kyat per acre,” said the farmer.

The farmers are now avoiding paying the taxes. The Karen armed group went to Nai Mon Htaw’s plantation during his employee was tapping rubber, asking him to pay the group 50,000 kyats per acre. The group will not allow farmers to tap their rubber plants without paying taxes to the group. Nai Mon Htaw told his employee to pack his stuff and stopped working on the plantation for a while.

“They reached our land and demanded taxes,” said Pa-Nga Village rubber plantation owner Nai Pyin, “We avoided them and came back to the village. The group demanded too much and we don’t have that amount as our rubber plants have only been growing for two seasons and cannot be tapped yet. We cannot even afford to buy land in a good location, which is why we bought this hillside land to plant the rubber trees. How could we be able to afford those taxes? That’s why we are staying in the village for a while, to avoid [the armed group]. We will go back to work in the plantation again when they leave.”

As most farmers in Wae Ka Li Village try to avoid paying the taxes, the armed groups are making expanding their taxation to farmers in the nearby village, demanding 30 kyat in tax for each plant, or 7,000 kyat in tax for each acre. According to Wae Ka Li farmer Nai Hong Htaw, some farmers decided to pay the taxes, but they won’t reveal their names due to safety concerns.

The Karen armed group, known as “Bo Soe”, who cooperates with Bo Lat War and Nai Tar La-ngay, arrested and detained plantation workers Mi Yin and Mi Cho near Yedagon Village last month. The two farmers were released after the group threatened them with guns and torture. The Burmese Army and liberated Mon armed group have been actively patrolling the area, then the Karen armed group too began actively patrolling the eastern area of Wae Ka Li Village.

“This armed troop is also extorting taxes from rubber plantations around Beelin and Kyeik Hto Townships, at 5,000 kyat per acre. In some villages, the group demand money by themselves, while in other villages they cooperate with village administrators to extort taxes. Most villagers could give the money by compromising with village administrators. In my case, I gave 20,000 kyats for 10 acres of land and I have no problems with them [the Karen armed group], but some villagers report to the Bilin Township Administrator; they said they would tell if the armed group plans to collect taxes. If they do tell, the town administrator has an understanding between them. There will be no problems, no matter how much they ask in taxes, the farmers will be allowed to work on their lands,” said eastern Kyite Hto farmer Nai Naing Oo, originally from Phe-Doe Village, Mudon Township.

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