Heavy tax burden adds to Chin food crisis

Feb 27, 2008 (DVB), The Chin National Front has criticised the excessive taxes levied by the Burmese government on ethnic Chin people who are already facing severe food shortages.

The mass flowering of bamboo in Chin state which occurs every 50 years has brought devastation this year, causing an infestation of rodents and diminishing food stores.

The CNF warned in a statement that a quarter of the population of Chin state is facing starvation, and called for famine relief in the area.

"The government completely ignores the rights of the Chin people and allows soldiers in the state to harass the local population," the statement said.

"And on top of that, Chinland is suffering from this disaster in 2008 which has left a quarter of the population starving," it went on.

"But instead of providing humanitarian aid to these people in distress, the SPDC has been collecting taxes from them."

According to the CNF's itemized list, people who live in towns must pay a range of taxes to the municipal authorities, central government, township and central Union Solidarity and Development Association, township Electric Power Corporation, township police, forestry department and veterinary department.

Those living in villages have to pay taxes to the municipal authorities and the military.

These include a fee to avoid military porter duties of 3000 kyat per person in the towns or 5000 kyat per person in the villages, 5000 kyat for one day's absence from military training and 2500 per person to avoid forced labour on road construction and other projects.

There is also a 1000 kyat hunting tax for each animal killed, a charge of 200 kyat per day to sell vegetables and an annual tax to the central USDA of 3000 kyat per person.

Villagers are also charged 6000 kyat for each bucket of rice in the household, and 4500 kyat for every three chickens they keep.

In total, the CNF estimates that the average town-dwelling Chin family has to pay 800,000 kyat a year in taxes, while village families pay around 40,000 kyat.

"Not only the eight government departments named, but also other departments are getting everything they can from the Chin people," the CNF statement said.

"Due to the pressures caused by starvation and the heavy taxes imposed by the SPDC this year, 2008 is now considered a disastrous year in the Chin people's history."

Chin people also have to pay tax to the CNF itself, though the group has now cut its demands in response to the crisis.

"Following a decision taken during the 5th central committee meeting, the CNF has decided to reduce the annual tax collected from the Chin people from 3000 kyat to 10 kyat," the statement said.

"Other taxes on consumer goods have also been reduced from five percent to three percent."

CNF central working committee member and chief of staff colonel Pu Ral Hnin said that the food shortages had led more than 200 families to flee to Mizoram state in India, where the Indian government has provided them with some assistance.

"The Indian government and the Indian people have done a lot for the Chin people," Pu Ral Hnin said.

"They have had no help from the Burmese government; instead of helping, they are just collecting more taxes."

Reporting by Nan Kham Kaew

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