Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Increasing Tolls Burden Arakanese People

1/27/2010

Kyauk Pru: Extortion of local Arakanese by navy and artillery battalions has been increasing recently in the coastal areas of Arakan after authorities beefed up security for a Chinese company that is constructing a gas and oil pipeline and drilling for gas, report local residents and boat owners.

One boat owner said, "A number of navy outposts and artillery battalions have been deployed to many small islands off the Arakan Coast, especially near Kyauk Pru City, to provide security for the Chinese company. Those outposts are now extorting money from local people."

Artillery Battalion 373 based in Sittwe has been deployed to several islands off the coast of Arakan, including Kyun Thaya and Nga Pa Thon Islands in Maybon Township. Three navy outposts have been set up by the authority at Own Kyunt Island, Own Byin Island, and Thit Poke Taung Island in Kyauk Pru Township.

"We had to pay all outposts whenever we crossed in front of the outposts and artillery battalions in our machine boats. We had to spend at least 150,000 and 200,000 kyats at each of five outposts in Kyauk Pru Township, but we don't know if the collection is for state revenue or for their own interests."

According to a local source, some navy officials tortured and harassed boatmen who refused to pay the demanded amount.

Another traveler said, "All private water crafts, including fishing boats, have been ordered by navy officials to harbor at all navy outposts and artillery battalion posts whenever they cross in front of the outposts. If they do not, navy officials fine and torture the boat men."

The navy officials typically fine between 5,000 and 50,000 kyats per boat if it fails to harbor at the navy outposts.

"Every motor boat - legal and illegal - has been extorted by the officials from the navy and artillery battalions and now the extortion is increasing alarmingly in our area. But no action has been taken by the high authority," he said.

Arakanese people have not received any benefit from their own natural resources, even though the military government is selling the gas and oil from Arakan to China. On top of this, Arakanese people are facing harassment and oppression by the Burmese army working to exploit those natural resources, the boat owner added.

Ref: Narinjara

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