Unknown armed group extorts over 1m Kyat in one night from Yebyu Township villagers
January 19, 2016
On the night of December 26 last year, an unknown Mon armed group extorted over 1 million Kyat from residents in three Tenasserim Division villages. The villages visited by the armed group were located in Min Thar and Nat Gyi Sin village tracts, situated in Tenasserim Division’s Yebyu Township.
According to reports, the unknown group – thought to be coordinated by a leader called Nai Mon Cha – arrived at Sin Swe village first, a small rural village in Min Thar Village Tract comprised of around 120 households. The group visited houses across the village, demanding 10,000 to 30,000 Kyat from each house. In total, the group extorted over 1.2 million Kyat from Sin Swe villagers, in addition to taking large quantities of valuable produce.
A local rubber plantation owner described the scene, “Seven people from the group came to our village at around 9 p.m. and demanded money from the villagers. They took 1,213,000 Kyat, two kyattha of gold [a Burmese unit of measurement], five mobile phones, and other things from the market, such as rice, oil and cigarettes.”
In addition to demanding money and goods, the group reportedly took Sin Swe’s village administrator hostage, alongside other villagers, threatening to kidnap them if locals did not pay up.
Nai W- N-, a rubber plantation owner who was taken hostage, described, “They came to my farm at around 9 p.m. and took rice from my hut and 10,000 Kyat. I only had 10,000 Kyat on me, so they just took that amount. They told me to take them to the village administrator’s house. Then, they extorted money from the rest of the village, taking me and the village administrator with them.”
After midnight, the group is reported to have moved on to Yay Ngan Gyi and Sein Pon villages, taking a truck, three motorbikes and 15 villagers from Sin Swe with them.
An eyewitness from Sein Pon village described, “They arrived in our village at 1 a.m. They called our village administrator and asked him to gather the villagers in the street. They demanded that we pay them 3 million Kyat. But we didn’t have enough money that night to pay, so they said that we should send them the money within 10 days.”
Reportedly, militia members arrived in Sein Pon two hours later to investigate, but by that point the unknown armed group had fled the scene. Villagers in Sein Pon say that they have not yet paid the sum demanded by the armed group.
Unfortunately for villagers in this area, the events of December 26 do not constitute a new threat to their livelihoods and safety. Locals say that the group in question demands money from villagers up to four times per year, regularly using tactics such as kidnapping to aid their extortion.