Villagers accuse both the Burma Army and KNLA of extorting “taxes”

Villagers have accuse both the Burma Army and soldiers from the Karen National Liberation Army, Brigade 4, of extorting ‘taxes’ from them in Myitta Sub Township, Tavoy, in the Tenasserim Division Sin Phyu Tai village tract since the beginning of April.

The villagers say the Burma Army Light Infantry Battalion 410, led by Colonel Kyi Soe, head of Tactical Operations Command 1 of operating checkpoints at Wartaw village and demanding 200 Thai baht of each traveler passing through the checkpoint.

A local merchant (who requested his named not be used for security reasons) spoke to Karen News.

“People who pass though Wartaw village checkpoint have to pay tax. Travelers have no choice they have to use this way even they can’t pay the tax. We heard Burma Army soldier are sharing the collected money with the KNLA soldiers.”

According to local sources, there are an estimated 100 travelers a day who pass through the checkpoint and 20 soldiers from the KNLA are active in the area.

According to a source close to the KNU told Karen News that Burma Army soldiers are illegally selling forest materials to Thailand by cooperating with local based KNLA soldiers. The source stressed that the Karen National Union headquarters is not aware of the ‘rogue soldiers’ taxing villagers.

In previous incidents of KNLA soldiers being involved in illegal activities the KNU has taken immediate action to stop the incidents.

Karen News contacted Saw Kwe Htoo Win, KNU chairman of the Mergui-Tavoy District about the arbitrary “taxation” by KNLA soldiers and said his office was still making inquiries about the allegations.

The KNLA senior officer in Brigade 4 said they are investigating the allegations and that villagers, soldiers and merchants will all be interviewed to get to the bottom of the accusations.

Wartaw village is located between Sin Phyu Tai and Amo villages, two miles from the Thai-Burma Border in Kanchanaburi province. The people from Sin Phyu Tai village tract are mostly farmers, work on plantations and log to make a living.

The local villagers say that this is that first time the KNLA (in the area) have worked together with the Burma Army to extort “taxes” in Tenasserim Division. Villagers say this incident has happened after the preliminary ceasefire between the KNU and the Burma government.

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