Villagers Fear Arrest after Refusing to Pay Paddy to Army

Minbya: The villagers from Palaypauk (Balipauk) Village in Minbya Township in Arakan State are in fear of arrest after being threatened by the army because they were unwilling to sacrifice their paddy harvests which are charged by the army as rent for their confiscated farmlands.

One of the villagers told Narinjara that the Military Operation Command or Sa-Ka-Kha (9) based in nearby Kyauktaw Township has threatened to arrest the villagers because they were hiding when the army personnel came to collect paddy from them.

“The army personnel from Sa-Ka-Kha (9) led by Major Ne Win and Corporal Ar Jone came to our village on the 31st of January to collect paddy from us. All the villagers were hiding when they came. After this they went to the village monastery and informed the monk of the monastery that they would arrest us if we do not pay the paddy to them”, said the villager.

Palaypauk Village is situated in the place where Minbya and Pauktaw Townships meet in north eastern Arakan State. According to the villagers, the Sa-Ka-Kha (9) has forcibly confiscated over 300 acres of paddy farmlands that were owned by the villagers, and have then been leasing the lands back to the owners with a rent of 25 baskets of paddy per acre.

“The army personnel even picked a quarrel with the monk as the monk requested they spare the villagers the rent this year. The monk told them the paddy harvest in the village was very poor this year, and the villagers are very poor, and then they asked the monk if he would pay, or who would pay 40,000 baskets of paddy that the government has ordered them to annually contribute to the state”, said the villager.

According to the source, there are only two villages in the Palaypauk Village Group namely Palaypauk and Dokekanlae, and the army have been annually collecting 15,000 baskets of paddy harvests—9,000 baskets from Palaypauk and 6,000 baskets from Dokekanlae—since it confiscated the farmlands from those villages.

“We villagers here are very poor farmers who are mainly living on the traditional paddy farming and we have been facing a lot of trouble in our livelihood since we have had to pay our harvests to the army. That is why we are unwilling to pay our harvests anymore, and we have recently written an appeal to the President U Thein Sein”, said the villager.

The villager said they are worrying about arrest by the army, as the army personnel have informed them that they would come again on 5 February threatening they would take action against those who fail to pay the paddy to them on that day.