(Paletwa Township, Chin State – 20 October 2020)
Community members from two village tracts in northern Paletwa Township have complained of ongoing arbitrary demands being issued by the Arakan Army (AA) since 14 Sept 2020. Villagers from Nga Shar, Kyaung Chaung, Auk Baungwa, Nung Bu Kyi and Nung Bu Nge village’s informed CHRO of instances of forced labour and extortion:
“Beginning on 14 September 2020, the AA began forcibly collecting two baskets of rice (approx. 10 kg) per household from five villages in Nga Shar village tract along the Kaladan River in Paletwa Township. Local people are then transporting the rice to locations in the forest near their camp. The AA members have been collecting this tax since 14 September. The local villagers have been asked to give two baskets of rice per household or pay the sum of 10,000 MMK (approx. 8 USD) in place of the rice demand. Then, local people have to transport the rice to a place near Nga Thein village, the villagers got paid 2000 MMK (approx. 2 USD) for transporting the rice. They [AA] demanded rice from Nga Shar Village Tract and Ye Chan Thar village in Kone Taw Village Tract,” said one community member who agreed to speak to CHRO on condition of anonymity.
Another source added that elsewhere in the area AA members have only been paying villagers 40,000 MMK (approx. 30 USD) for a bag (approx. 50 kg) of rice which at current market rate costs locals 75,000 MMK (approx. 60 USD). Compounding the situation, at present villagers are limited in the amount of rice that can be purchased, determined by local authorities. This amount is based on a household registration after receiving the approval of the village tract administrators and with permission from the Paletwa Township Office of the General Administrative Department (GAD). After this process is complete, the quantity of rice that a person may buy for their household is determined.
In relation to the AA soldiers forcibly collecting rice from local villagers, Salai Kyaw Aung, Secretary of the Chin Internally Displaced People (IDP) Support Committee said that “local people are affected from COVID-19 lockdown measures and movement restrictions and I also would like to say that the AA members are not sympathetic to the local people as they are forcibly collecting rice from the people at a time when transportation is blocked on all sides [river and road]. This situation is not new and the local people have always suffered in the past as well.”
Nga Shar Village Tract is a five-hour boat ride from Paletwa. The 5 villages under Nga Shar village tract are; Nga Shar (109 households), Kyaung Chaung (56 households), Auk Baungwa (4 households), Nung Bu Kyi (30 households) and Nung Bu Nge (74 households).
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