Farmers in mixed-controlled areas of Ye Township shoulder financial burden of double taxation at the hands of the NMSP and KNU

February 1, 2019

HURFOM: For farmers in Par Ka Dike village, Ye Township, an area of disputed territory between the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and Karen National Union (KNU), land transfer taxes levied by both the NMSP and KNU place a considerable financial burden on those buying and selling farm land.

On January 6th 2019, farmland located in Par Ka Dike village was sold from one farmer to another. Shortly thereafter, on January 9th, both farmers received letters from the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA) battalion stationed near Par Ka Dike village, instructing them to appear at the MNLA base.

 “On January 9th, my husband and my son went to the local MNLA base. Once they got there, they told my son to go home but they didn’t allow my husband to leave. Then they forced my husband to sign a land transfer contract, and allowed him to go home in the evening,” said Daw W—, the wife of the farmer who purchased the land in Par Ka Dike.

The following day, on January 10th, the two farmers party to the transaction appeared before the local MNLA battalion, signing yet another land transfer contract. In accordance with the contract the two men signed, each paid a tax of 2,500 kyat (US $1.64) per acre transferred, for a total of 300,000 kyat (US $197.69) collected by the MNLA.

Daw W— explained, “The original land owner is Karen, and they held a land certificate issued by the KNU. After I bought the land, the NMSP said the land is under NMSP control, and that I have to sign a land transfer contract with the MNLA. However, on January 11th, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) forced us [the seller and buyer] to sign a contract with them too, as the lands were also recognized as being in a KNU controlled area. We have to spend a lot of money…We are not rich and worked very hard to make enough money to buy these lands. If we knew this was going to happen, we wouldn’t have bought the land.”

Just as they did with the MNLA, on January 13th the two farmers party to the transaction appeared before the local KNLA battalion, signing yet another land transfer contract. Each farmer paid a land transfer tax of 500,000 kyat (US $329.48), for a total of 1,000,000 kyat (US $658.99) collected by the KNLA.

Daw W— added, “The KNLA demanded 1.8 million kyat (US $1,186.19) from us but we negotiated with them and agreed to pay one million kyat. According to the KNLA, we have to sign a contract with them as the land is under their control. They told us that they would not allow us to travel in KNU controlled areas if we did not sign a contract with them.”

According to the NMSP Chairman for Dawei District, Nai Nyan Tun, “The NMSP has created land certificates and land sales contracts for the sake of Mon people. The NMSP helps people who hold our land certificates if, for example, they have some problems with their land. It is fine if villagers don’t want to sign land sales contracts with us. However, if they have a problem with their land, we are not going to help them resolve the problem. They should not be so concerned about the tax.”

Other locals also report encountering similar problems when selling lands located in areas of territorial dispute between the NMSP and the KNU. As one villager tells us, “Regarding this problem, we would like to say that the armed groups are using their power to threaten the locals.”

Farmland in Par Ka Dike village is relatively cheap compared with land in other townships throughout Mon State. However, because of ongoing territorial disputes between the NMSP and KNU, and the attendant practice of double taxation due to the absence of a mutual agreement on tax collection, the sale and purchase of land in mixed-controlled areas can often lead to financial hardship for the parties involved.

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