Yebyu Township villagers speak out about splinter group extortion

January 22, 2016

Yebyu: On the border of southern Ye Township, Mon State and northern Yebyu Township, Tenasserim Region, villagers are beginning to speak out about frequent demands for money from Mon splinter groups.

Residents in small villages along the seacoast have complained about a lack of protection from Mon splinter factions, who demand huge amounts of money from villagers up to three or four times per year. Speaking to HURFOM, villagers said that the threat is so severe that many have considered moving to other areas to escape the splinter groups’ reach.

The coastal area between southern Ye Township and northern Yebyu Township, where the New Mon State Party (NMSP) has wielded influence since 1987, has been marked out as a black area since the Burma Socialist Program Party (BSPP) era, due to splinter groups’ prolific activities.

Today, splinter groups still regularly extort money from villagers in the region. According to data given by village administrators, from October 2014 to April 2015 splinter groups extorted a total of 28 million Kyat from five different villages, as well as five Kyat-thar of gold and several mobile phones.

Also in this period, the village administrator on Kywe Thone Nyi Ma island received two separate letters from splinter groups, each demanding 40 million Kyat. The second letter, received on April 16, 2015, was signed by the Asaung and Alwin (Nai Loon) groups.

The village administrator of Kywe Thone Nyi Ma explained that around 10 households have moved away from the island in response to the threat posed by splinter groups.

“They demand millions of Kyat,” said Nai De Dot, a 55-year-old rubber plantation worker from Mae Taw village, “It is like they assume we villagers have a machine to produce money. Even if we could sell our rubber leaves for a Kyat per leaf, it would still be difficult to raise the amounts of money they demand. No matter how difficult life is for us, we always have to pay them. Even the village head and monks cannot live in peace. If we don’t pay them, we can’t live in peace, and instead we have to worry about when they will come to kill us.”

Villagers expressed concerns that small villages in the area risk falling behind in terms of development due to constant threats of attack and extortion.

A resident from Mae Taw village, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “Villagers are too frightened to go to their farms and plantations. They are planning to move to other places. They just leave their farms with their relatives. Some put their land up for sale.”

According to Nai Ah Htun, a 49-year-old plantation owner based in Ah Mae village, the splinter groups thrive due to a strong network of informants in coastal villages and on ships along the seashore.

Nai Ah Htun expressed his frustration that local military and major armed groups have failed to protect villagers, saying, “We don’t understand why the New Mon State Party and government military can’t get rid of these small splinter groups […] Where are the security services from the nearby Mawrawaddy battalions No. 42 and 43?

“We have to pay [the splinter groups] a huge amount of money, from our money that we earn from our hard work. Not just one year, but every year. This is not right at all. It is time for them to stop. We would like to ask government armed groups and ceasefire armed groups to help us.”

Another villager echoed these frustrations, “Every time splinter groups come to extort money, we hear that the nearby Mawrawaddy Navy will provide security. But we never hear anything about what they have done to get rid of the groups.”

 

 

 

 

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