Chapter 5: Looting, Extortion and Arbitrary Taxation

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Chapter 5: Looting, Extortion and Arbitrary Taxation

Published date:
Thursday, May 10, 2018
  1. Villagers report that taxes in southeast Myanmar remain unclear and arbitrary, and that, in addition to taxation by the Myanmar government and KNU, they are often taxed by multiple armed groups. Villagers report that they do not see any benefit to their lives from taxation and that the taxation is not proportionate to their income, making it a financial burden. The burden that taxation places on villagers, with little to no social benefit provided in return for this taxation means that most taxation in southeast Myanmar can be viewed as arbitrary. Furthermore, villagers continue to mistrust the tax system due to excessive taxes and extortion levied on them throughout the conflict by Tatmadaw and EAGs.
  2. The persistent presence of armed checkpoints is a significant restriction on villagers’ trade, freedom of movement, access to basic goods and ability to earn an income. These checkpoints are often run by multiple armed groups in southeast Myanmar. Furthermore, the presence of checkpoints increases villagers’ exposure to armed actors and, therefore, to additional abuses including threats, arbitrary arrest, violent abuse and detention.
  3. During the conflict, looting and extortion, committed most commonly by Tatmadaw, acted as direct attacks on villagers livelihoods. A significant consequence of looting and extortion, when combined with additional abuses in armed conflict, was displacement, and many villagers faced debt or refused to meet the demands levied on their village by armed actors.
  4. Extortion, while less frequent since the 2012 ceasefire, is a barrier for villagers to access justice when it is imposed by powerful actors, including the Myanmar Police and armed groups. The incidences of extortion in the justice system mean that villagers do not feel that the system works for their protection and helps to maintain their mistrust of the Myanmar government.

Footnotes


[2] “Toungoo Interview: Saw A---, December 2015,” KHRG, November 2016.

[3] Tatmadaw refers to the Myanmar military throughout KHRG’s 25 years reporting period. The Myanmar military were commonly referred to by villagers in KHRG research areas as SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) between 1988 to 1997 and SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) from 1998 to 2011, which were the Tatmadaw-proclaimed names of the military government of Myanmar. Villagers also refer to Tatmadaw in some cases as simply “Burmese” or “Burmese soldiers”.

[4] “REPORTS FROM THE KAREN PROVINCES,” KHRG, September 1992.

[5] “DEATH SQUADS AND DISPLACEMENT,” KHRG, May 1999.

[9] “CAUGHT  IN  THE  MIDDLE,”  KHRG,  September  1999;  see  also  “Developments  in  the  SLORC/SPDC Occupation of Dooplaya District,” KHRG, February 1998.

[11] Source #36.

[13] For more information about their looting and extortion please see Source #155

[14] Source #9.

[15] Source #64.

[16] “Thaton Interview: Ma A---, July 2015,” KHRG, August 2015.

[18] Article 9 of the NCA focuses on the protection of civilians, however, out of the 17 points outlined in this article, only three do not use the word ‘avoid’. An example of how the NCA uses the word ‘avoid’ can be seen in Article 9.e, “Avoid unlawful and arbitrary arrest, entrapment, prosecution and pronouncement of judgment against civilians.” “THE NATIONWIDE CEASEFIRE AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE UNION OF MYANMAR AND THE ETHNIC ARMED ORGANIZATIONS,” Union Peacemaking Working Committee and the Ethnic Armed Organization’s National Ceasefire Negotiation Delegation2015.

[19] Articles 31 and 33, “Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949,” International Committee of the Red Cross, August 1949.

[20] Source #36.

[23] “They [SLORC/Tatmadaw] have rations, but they just go from village to village and force everyone to give them food.I think they send their rations home to their families. If they want money, they capture people in the villages and hold them for ransom. This is their main job – to make money.” Forced Relocation in Kyauk Kyi Township,” KHRG, June 1993.

[25] “INCOMING FIELD REPORTS,” KHRG, April 1994.

[26] “They burnt plenty of houses, our belongings, pots, plates and spoons in our village.” Source #169.

[27] “This church in Kwih Doh Kaw village, Mone Township, Nyaunglebin District was gutted after SPDC [Tatmadaw] soldiers set fire to it. This photo was taken in October 2003.”PHOTO SET 2005-A: Attacks on Villages and Village Destruction,” KHRG, May 2005.

[28]  For more information please see Chapter 3: Displacement and Return and also Chapter 8: Discrimination and Division.

[30] “Dooplaya Interview: Saw A---, August 2015,” KHRG, February 2017.

[31] Source #36.

[33] “Dooplaya Interview: Saw A---, August 2015,” KHRG, February 2017.

[34] “Thaton Interview: Ma A---, July 2015,” KHRG, August 2015.

[35] Source #64.

[36] Source #9.

[37] Source #10.

[40] “I had to go more times than I can count. That began when they arrived in our village a year ago. They would demand one or two people each time and later we would have to rotate with new porters. We had to porter for 3 to 6 days each time. If people couldn't go they had to apy money to hire a porter to go for them. It cost 100 Kyats (US$0.10) a day to hire someone. UNCERTAINTY, FEAR AND FLIGHT: The Current Human Rights Situation in  Eastern Pa’an District,” KHRG, November 1998.

[41] “INCOMING FIELD REPORTS,” KHRG, April 1994.

[42] “REPORTS FROM THE KAREN PROVINCES,” KHRG, September 1992.

[44] “Strengthen domestic resource mobilization, including through international support to developing countries, to improve domestic capacity for tax and other revenue collection.” Declaration 17, “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” UN, September 2015.

[45] For further information on how the Myanmar Government collects taxation see, “Local Economic Governance in Myanmar,” Jared Bissinger, The Asia Foundation, February 2016.

[46] For further information on how the KNU collects taxation please see “Ceasefire, Governance and Development: The Karen National Union in Times of change,” Kim Jolliffe, The Asia Foundation, December 2016.

[47] See Chapter 3: Education and Chapter 4. Health.

[50] “Hpapun Interview: U A---, January 2014,” KHRG, October 2014.

[53] Source #94.

[55] “Ceasefire, Governance and Development: The Karen National Union in Times of change,” Kim Jolliffe, The Asia Foundation, December 2016.

[58] “Hpapun Interview: Naw A---, April 2015,” KHRG February 2016.

[59] “Hpapun Interview: Naw A---, April 2015,” KHRG February 2016.

[60] “Dooplaya Interview: Saw A---, August 2015,” KHRG, February 2017.

[62] Source #26.

[63] Source #85.

[64] “TORTURE OF KAREN WOMEN BY SLORC,” KHRG, February 1993.

[65] “They said the KNU is asking for a yearly donation of emergency rice. The Burmese [Tatmadaw] said, ‘When the KNU asks you, you give it to them. We also have no food and not enough to eat. You villagers have to give to us.’ In August they demanded one basket of rice. They tax some villages and demand rubber, too. Villagers have to give once a year, depending on the yield of their fields. The other villages who grow rubber also have to pay. In the past when a Burmese column came up the Burmese staying in the camp said, ‘Our military [another column] is coming up and we will guarantee you.’ They asked us for 10,000 (US $10.00) and sometimes 20,000 Kyat (US $20.00).” STARVING THEM OUT: Forced Relocations, Killings and the Systematic Starvation of Villagers in Dooplaya District,” KHRG, March 2000.

[69] “ABUSES IN TEE SAH RA AREA,” KHRG, March 1996; see also “Field Reports and Interviews,” KHRG, October 1998.

[70] Source #2; see also source #5.

[71] “Hpapun Field Report: January to December 2013,” KHRG,” KHRG, March 2016.

[72] Source #127.

[75] Source #117.

[76] Source #106.

[77] Source #85.

[78] “Hpa-an Interview: Saw A---, May 2014,” KHRG, May 2015.

[79] Source #38.

[80] “Besides, there are beautiful buildings for visiting near by the road construction.Soa lot of people go there and they travel there by motorbikes and cars. That’s why they [Zaykabar Company] made a gate [check point] and they collect road fees from the people.” Toungoo Situation Update: Thandaunggyi Township, June to August 2016,” KHRG, March 2017.

[91] “SLORC IN KYA-IN & KAWKAREIK TOWNSHIPS,” KHRG, February 1996.

[92] “INCOMING FIELD REPORTS,” KHRG, April 1994.

[94] Source #38; see also source #42; see also “Thaton Situation Update: Bilin and Hpa-an townships, June to November 2014,” KHRG, February 2015.

[96] “Hpa-an Interview: Saw A---, May 2014,” KHRG, May 2015.

[97] “I do not feel good. Not only myself, but also my children face difficulties [to travel if we do not have an identification card]. There is no problem for me [although I do not have identification card] as I am getting old, but I am worried for my children's future. It will be difficult for them to travel from place to place if they do not have a Myanmaridentificationcard.”Source #120. See also Chapter 8: Discrimination and Division.

[98] “INCOMING FIELD REPORTS,” KHRG, August 1994.

[101] Source #154.

[102] Source #126.

[103] “CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE,” KHRG, September 1999

[104]“They said that if we don’t go as porters, we would have to pay money. They want 1,000 Kyat (US$1.00) perday. We have to give it, but not everyone can, so we have to borrow money from each other.”SPDC & DKBA ORDERS TO VILLAGES: SET 2000-B,” KHRG, October 2000; See also “PEACE VILLAGES AND HIDING VILLAGES: Roads, Relocations, and the Campaign for Control in Toungoo District,” KHRG, October 2000.

[105] “CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE,” KHRG, September 1999.

[106] “Hpa-an Interview: Saw A---, August 2015,” KHRG, November 2016.

[111] "They increased the [tax paid in] crops every year and [in the end] my father could not work with it anymore. Naw B-- went to Bangkok [for work]. At that time, I had not finished school yet. And she [Naw B---] supported [us with] moneyfor[our]livelihood," “Hpa-an Interview: Naw A---, June 2015,” KHRG, June 2015; see also, "Personally,I experienced working in Thailand, as we are not their citizen there are no guarantee for us, we have to live under fear we cannot go and do what we want. We have to work and get the things that we want under fear." Source #160; see also “Hpa-an Situation Update: Hlaingbwe Township, April to May 2015,” KHRG, July 2015.

[112] “They love to live in their own villages. It is not easy for them to flee toThailand,”STRENGTHENING THE GRIP ON DOOPLAYA: Developments in the SPDC Occupation of Dooplaya District,” KHRG, June 1998.

[114] The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, often referred as “Ko Per Baw” translated directly from Karen language as “yellow headscarves,” a reference to the DKBA’s uniform.

[115] UNCERTAINTY, FEAR AND FLIGHT: The Current Human Rights Situation in Eastern Pa’an District,” KHRG, November, 1998; see also “Although most of the villagers remain in their villages under SPDC[Tatmadaw] and DKBA control, theirlives are difficult and they are becoming increasingly impoverished. The continued use of forced labour, the demands for money and food from the villagers, and the resulting poverty have driven many to flee to refugee camps or to join the illegal migrant lobour market in Thailand.” Consolidation of Control: The SPDC and the DKBA in Pa’an District,” KHRG, September 2002.

[116] “Another group of soldiers came into our village and all the villagers tried to run away because we were afraid of them.”CONTINUING SLORC ACTIONS IN KAREN STATE,” KHRG, May 1994.

[118] “Since October 10th 2014 enemy activity has been increasing.The villagers have had some problems traveling because [some] Tatmadaw soldiers have been waiting half way up and on the side of the road to check people. The villagers were very scared because they have seen that the soldiers have been waiting beside the roads and increasing the checks on people.” Source #37.

[119] Source #85; see also “Dooplaya Situation Update: Win Yay Township, June to July 2015,” KHRG, March 2017.

[120] Source #141.

[122] “They take the livestock, but you can’t complain. They said if you complain, they will kill you. Their Strategic Commander said‘ You satisfy and feed the outside people, but you don’t satisfy or feed us.” STARVING THEM OUT: Forced Relocations, Killings and the Systematic Starvation of Villagers in Dooplaya District,” KHRG, March 2000.

[123] “Conditions North of Myawaddy,” KHRG, January 1996.

[125] For more information on landmines see Chapter 1: Militarisation.

[126] “Only our leaders [KNU] protected us from danger and were our security guards.They attacked them [Tatmadaw] back whenever they met.”Source #171.

[128] “Hpapun Interview: Ma A---, October 2013,” KHRG, October 2014.

[129] Source #159.

[130] As the average conversion rate in 2015 was 1182 kyat to US$1, a few kyats would be equivalent to US$0.00.

[131] “Hpapun Interview: Naw A---, April 2015,” KHRG, February 2016.

[132] “Hpapun Interview: Naw A---, April 2015,” KHRG, February 2016.