Local People in Moulmein Struggle to Earn Living due to the Castor Oil Planning Project

September 19, 2007

HURFOM, Moulmein

Burmese authorities have been forcing local people to buy and grow castor oil plans in Moulmein District, Mon State. The order from Moulmein District secretary U Than Sein stated that every house in Moulmein had to buy 4-5 castor oil seedlings and grow them in front of their house. They had to pay 500 kyat per plant.

“This is not the first time we have faced this problem. In the past they forced us to buy and grow castor oil seeds. We have had to do this 7 or 8 times already this year. Each time a different authority group issued the order” stated a shop owner, U Chit (not his real name) who lives on Upper Road in Moulmein. Many different groups benefit from this project, including the Department of Forestry, the Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC), and the Village Peace and Development Council (VPDC).

“Using this project they are able to obtain our money by many different methods; it costs us a lot to buy and grow the seedlings. Then, after they are grown, we are made to pay taxes to preserve the plants,” added U Chit.

If the castor oil plants do not grow successfully, authorities re-sell the plants and have them re-grown. Some local people said that this project was just a money-making venture for authorities, and would never be successful for residents. Once they receive their money, authorities are indifferent about the success of the crop.

On top of the costs of taxes and buying growing seedlings, residents also have to pay for the security of their ward, for transportation of Very Important Persons (VIPs), Mon State Municipality and other monthly taxes.

“Our shop is not very busy these days, we don’t sell much at all. It is hard to earn a living when the rate of taxation is so high” continued U Chit.

Local people were complaining that they were forced to pay more taxes than they could afford, as the plants did not grow well and they subsequently had to pay for new plants. Sometimes the plants die because animals eat them, or vehicles drive over them; often though the reason for high plant death is due to authorities ignoring their duty, despite collecting preservation taxes. Therefore, it seems there will be no relief for the local people, as authorities force a variety of taxes upon them, including the repeated extortion related to castor oil plants.

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