NMSP accused of extortion in highway scheme

NMSP accused of extortion in highway scheme

A local family in the Thai-Burmese border town of Three Pagodas Pass have complained that Mon rebels are extorting them of payments from a construction company that is building a highway through their land.

Mi Aye Khine told DVB on Tuesday that the Yamanya International firm had previously agreed to pay 120 Thai baht (US$4) to her family and 350 baht to the New Mon State Party (NMSP) per truckload of rocks excavated from her land as part of a project to build a four-lane highway connecting the area with Thailand.

“The construction company has been mining rocks on our land, providing us with120 baht for each 10-wheel truckload,” she said. “Now the NMSP have told us they will be taking all of our cut as well as their own.”

“The NMSP said the land does not belong to us. But in fact we bought it from another local in Payathonzu [Three Pagodas Pass] in 1996,” she said. “My father has been longing to build a house on the land, but now the Mon army says he must seek permission from them to do so, because the land falls under its territory.”

Mi Aye Khine said she has complained directly and sent letters to local political parties.

Nai Chan Tain Mon, the NMSP chairperson in Payathonzu, insisted the land belonged to the ethnic army as it falls under their demarcated territory, as do the natural resources on the land.

“Kyandaw Hill is nearby and is very resource-rich,” he said. “Such an area should only belong to the government or an armed group. We cannot allow private individuals to be making profits from it.”

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He said farmers can make profits from growing crops on the land, but all natural resources – including rocks and pebbles – are property of the NMSP.

Nai Thein Zaw, an official in the All Mon Region Democracy Party, confirmed that the party had received Mi Aye Khine’s complaint.

“It is hard to speak for the family as they have no land ownership paperwork,” he said. “We explained the 2012 Farmland Law and asked them to make a list of plants and crops they have grown on the land, as well as providing any photographic evidence of their ownership.”

The NMSP is one of more than a dozen armed ethnic groups presently involved in ceasefire negotiations with the Burmese government.

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