Burmese Military Intelligence agents extort tolls from Fishermen
Ponnagyun, 19 Feb. 03: Having leased out all the rivers and creeks of Rakhine State in the western part of Burma in December last, the Military Intelligence forces in and around Ponnagyun Town have been reported to order the fishermen in the area to pay up tolls according to their demands, reports our correspondent.
The rate of toll payment was previously fixed annually. But at present the toll has been ordered to be realized every fortnight according to the incoming high or low tide and that too, at the rate of up to kyat 10,000 for a large fishing net and 5,000 for a small fishing net. The decree by the military intelligence has been effective since December 9th last year. The non-compliance of the decree has been threatened with a three month jail term and a fine up to kyat 50,000.
The decree has left thousands of fishermen jobless as they cannot afford to pay up the tolls to the Burmese Military intelligence, said a headman of the fishing community. Previously there were no such arrangements and the fishermen used to catch fish without paying any tolls or taxes for the use of the rivers and creeks. Many of the local people think the move by the ruling Burmese junta as plain state-sponsored illegal extortion aimed at destroying the livelihood of the people in the state. At present there are about sixty battalions of armed forces stationed across the state, and people have to pay wholesale tolls to them whether one is working on land or in the water, and the ruling junta is encouraging the armed forces to collect such tolls as they face fund shortage to make salary payments, it was learnt. #