A local militia is terrorizing and extorting the public, trying to extract millions of kyat from villagers in Tang Yan township, northern Shan State, residents and parliamentarians say.
The latest spat of taxation reportedly began on February 20. Village heads from Kungmong, Kongsong, Kungpaung and Salang say they were called to a meeting where Captain Tun Sein, head of the Manpang People’s Militia’s political department, asked them to donate to the force.
“Our village leaders were called for a meeting in Narsone Village on February 20. They were told that it was not a tax, but that the militia was asking for their help,” said Sai Khay, a villager who fled to Lashio. “We, the residents of the Salag village tract, were asked for K1 million to K1.6 million per village, or over K8 million in total. In the village tracts visited by Lieutenant Lone Nyunt, the residents were told to pay K4-5 million. In Mongyaw village the locals were even asked to pay K16 million.”
The Manpang People’s Militia has long been accused of taxing northern Shan State residents.
In addition to demanding money, the people’s militia also forces villagers to supply food and forced labour, another resident told SHAN.
“They told us that they need assistance since they are no longer able to engage in logging. They need funds. I said that the maize corn and other crops are not good this year. We also have to give them rice yearly. They collect money from the streets. Now and again, they come by asking for donations. I do not know why the government continues to allow this militia group as it has not done anything for the public,” said Sai Naung, a villager.
According to the Asia Foundation’s report on militias released last year, the Manpang Militia is led by Bo Man, a former member of the Mong Tai Army, and consists of several hundred men. The militia has been accused of engaging in narcotics trafficking, and according to UK-based watchdog Global Witness, they have benefitted from extensive land confiscation carried out by the Tatmadaw, such as receiving a portion of over five million acres ostensibly leased for commercial agriculture.
Sai Wanlaing Kham, an Amyotha Hluttaw representative from Lashio, criticized the Manpang People’s Militia for pressuring villagers.
“People are facing difficulties as they are having to pay all different kinds of taxes. Now, this militia is requesting K4-5 millions,” he said. “If the militia is having a hard time it should disband. There have been no development projects in the area where the Manpang People’s Militia Force is active. There are no good roads or electricity access. Instead of working for the benefit of the people, they are turning on the people for financial help. How can the villagers continue to live there?”
According to Kongsong village tract residents, seven villagers were arrested by the Manpang People’s Militia on January 29. No reason was given for the arrest, but the militia has previously been accused of forced recruitment practices.
Translated by Aong Jaeneh
Edited by Laignee Barron