Authorities extort money from cyclone victims

Aug 25, 2008 (DVB), Villagers in Irrawaddy division have complained that local authorities have continued to extort money from cyclone victims under various pretexts, despite a letter of complaint they sent to SPDC leaders to report the practice.

U Than Zin, chairman of Mangay Kalay village Peace and Development Council in Dadaye township, PDC members and U Khin Kyaw (also known as U Htin Kyaw) of the township land survey department extorted money from villagers for receiving aid from donors.

U Ba Kyi, a farmer from Mangay Kalay, said locals had been forced to pay for diesel fuel that had been donated to them.

"There were 1383 gallons of diesel, and they collected 500 kyat a gallon from us , so 919,000 kyat," U Ba Kyi said.

"But these were actually given to us as donations."

U Ba Kyi said each household was also told to pay money to help cyclone victims.

"They collected 500 kyat each from 432 families on the pretext of helping the storm victims," he said.

"We had to pay 216,000 each time and we had to pay four times, totaling around 864,000."

The authorities reportedly told villagers they needed to collect money to fund the accommodation and hospitality for donors.

"Not satisfied with that, they collected 8000 kyat each from 212 farmers in order to buy fertiliser from the state agricultural organisation , 742 bags of fertilizers , amounting to exactly 1,696,000," U Ba Kyi said.

"They have been misappropriating the money they have collected."

The villagers sent their letter of complaint, which they had each signed and given their national identity card number, to junta leader senior general Than Shwe, prime minister general Thein Sein, the social and relocation minister and hotel and tourism minister, and the commander of Western Command, but no action has so far been taken by the authorities.

Similarly in Talokehtaw village in Rangoon division's Twante township, the village authority chairman and members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association and the Women's Affairs Federation have been profiting from aid, a villager told DVB.

"In Twante's Talokehtaw village, when they're distributing rice or medicine, there have been incidents when they have failed to give out the aid or extorted money," the villager said.

The villager said that goods had mainly been distributed to people who supported the authorities, while others had to pay to receive materials.

"One day, they gave things out using a raffle ticket system, but each house had to pay 300 kyat to enter the raffle," the villager said.

"Even if you won something you had to pay 1500 kyat [to receive it]," he said.

"U Maung Thaung, U Aye Thaung and Daw Cho are the main people involved in that."

Reporting by Aye Nai

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