Battalions in Kyauk Kyi Township tax fishpond owners, order huts destroyed
November 27, 2008
HURFOM:Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No. 599 is harassing owners of fishponds in Hta Htoo village, Nyaunn Lay Pin District, Kyauk Kyi Township, Karen State. On consecutive days, different columns from the battalion ordered owners to pay extra fees and to destroy their waterside huts.
On November 9th, a LIB No. 599 column led by 1st Lieutenant Zaw Lin Htun and second major Aung Zaw entered Hta Htoo village amd demanded money from villagers. Every person who owns a fishpond had to pay 20,000 kyat, plus an additional 2,500 kyat for every guard hut, reported a HURFOM field researcher who learned of the taxation by monitoring Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) radio activity.
The next day, on November 10th, another LIB No. 599 column entered the village and ordered fishpond owners to break down their huts. According to the HURFOM field reporter, who again monitored KNLA radio communications, 2nd Lieutenant Zaw Zaw Win led the column.
The area around Hta Htoo village is home to about two hundred fishponds. Every year during the rainy season, farmers trap floodwater, and fish, in ponds constructed to hold water through the hot season. During the summer, the farmers sell the fish for extra income.
Farmers build huts next to the ponds so that they can stay on site and prevent the fish from being stolen by soldiers and thieves or caught by birds and wild animals. Villagers were consequently unhappy about having to tear down their huts.
“If we have no hut where do we live? We can’t stay at our ponds without huts because the soldiers will suspect us to be the KNU soldiers and kill us all,” a Hta Htoo villager told HURFOM. “We faced a very difficult situation. Our fishponds have many fish to be caught in the coming months. If we can’t watch our ponds, the fishes will be stolen by soldiers.”
Residents of villages in the surrounding area were forced by regime authorities to relocate into Hta Htoo so that they could be more easily controlled and monitored. Most residents continue to work on farms and plantations near their home villages, but must ask permission and purchase ten-day travel permits allowing them to travel to workplaces.