DKBA sponsors illegal cockfights and gambling in Mudon Township

October 15, 2008

HURFOM : Mudon Township
Soldiers of the Democratic Buddhist Army (DKBA) are holding cockfights and taxing related gambling, say local sources in Mudon Township, Mon State. Though cockfighting has been illegal for seven years, the fights are being promoted and held openly. Township Peace and Development Council and local authorities have remained silent on the issue.

Two days of cockfights have been held in Sein Taung village, Kamarwet Sub-township, Mudon Township, says a local eyewitness. “On the last holy day (October 6th), five troops of a Karen cease-fire group (DKBA) came into the village, gathered some local men infamous for cockfighting and started gambling on the cockfights,” said the witness. “Nobody in the village dared to stop them.”

On October 13th, seven DKBA troops returned to Sein Taung and announced that cockfighting and betting had been reopened in the village tract. “They were seven members in total and two seem to be the leaders of DKBA from Mudon Town. All the men except the two leaders had AK guns and the leaders had two-way radios,” said the source.

Twenty to thirty people, including the soldiers, participated in heavy betting on the fights, said the source. “They organized many cockfights with large amounts of betting, approximately two to three million kyat per fight ($1,500 to $2,500 USD). Infamous gamblers, Nai Ka-Joh, 40, and Nai Ha-Beh, 45, from Kamarwet joined the DKBA sponsored gambling.”

The DKBA generated significant income from just two days of fighting, says Tar Tar, 25, another witness from Sein Taung, who said a five to ten percent tax was levied on each fight. “These troops could earn approximately 10 to 15 million kyat ($8,000 to $12,500 USD) from the cockfights for only one day.” A typical farmer or government official in Mudon earns between 30,000 and 60,000 kyat a month.

Residents, parents and community leaders are worried about the effect cockfighting and gambling will have on the local community. They also fear that it will spread within Kamarwet, as well as to other village tracts.

“Some villagers are losing their money and some are winning. But the local parents are worrying for their sons,” said Tar Tar.

“I think, firstly, they are trying to destroy the spirit of the villagers. Secondly, I think the DKBA is trying to extend its influence into the Mon community,” added a Buddhist monk from Kamarwet. Though the New Mon State Party (NMSP) lost control of Kamarwet when it signed a cease-fire with the military government in 1995, the area has continued to be strongly influenced by the party as well as Mon civil society groups. A number of influential Mon leaders reside in the area, and it is the birthplace of the NMSP’s current chairman, Nai Htaw Mon.

The DKBA, which split from the Karen National Union in 1994 and is now unofficially allied with Burma’s military government, is notorious for promoting gambling in territories under its control. In Karen State, villagers have complained about gambling promoted by the DKBA, and the attendant negative impacts on the community.

“It began last December with traditional games like Ah-Ni Thaung Wine in Burmese and the infamous blood sport of cockfighting,” said a villager from Za Tha Pyin, twenty-five kilometers away in Karen State. “Villagers who enjoy this kind of gambling participate, and many lose their money. But gambling also brings out thieves and robbers,” said a villager from Za Tha Pyin, adding “In our village we didn’t have robbers and thieves, but after the gambling started every robber and thief decided to pay a visit.”

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