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Paung Township locals stage protest against corruption

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Mehm Pone — A protest in Paung Township against the Electric Power Committee and Village Tract Administration attracted over 100 people from 14 villages. The protest that took place on May 18 called for justice for villagers with complaints of being overcharged for electricity and land that was confiscated by the Village Tract Administration, and then sold again.

2401ED07-6DCA-47F6-9537-201945C9F95F“We are protesting for equality. If we don’t get it, then the government is not democratic.” said Nai Aung San, one of the protest leaders.

The Electric Power Committee has been charging consumers 10 times more than the 100,000 Kyat per Electric Meter box they said it would cost. No explanation has been given for the inflated rates.

The village tract administration reportedly sold half of a land plot that was owned by a school.

“To help with this problem, we founded a village-level committee that will investigate the case and bring justice. The government is also helping to monitor these cases.” said Nai Kyi Aye, who took part in the protest that finally got the green light to organize the protest after several requests were denied.

Protestors marched around the 3 quarters of Paung town, shouting stop injustice, stop oppression, stop corruption, and grant citizenship rights.

“First, they said they will charge 530,000 Kyat per meter box, then, they charged 1,000,000 Kyat. We can’t afford that and want it to only cost about 300,000 Kyat,” said Nai Phone, one of the protestors.

“The rubber plantations that belonged to Karen villagers in Zin villagers were taken by the NMSP who resold the land at around 200,000 kyat per acre. Although they returned some of the plantations to the (original) owners, they also burnt some of them.” said Nai Kyi Aye.

The NMSP asked the government for the 3,000 acres of farmland in 2004, according to Nai Tala Nye, a representative of the party’s executive committee. But, the Mon armed group only had the opportunity to discuss this with Ministry of Forestry after inking a ceasefire agreement with the government in early 2012, he added.

Several of the plantation owners told NMSP they weren’t interested in working the land and compensation was paid to those that requested, said Nai Tala Nye.

“The villagers already knew we went there with Ministry of Forestry to check out the land. The villagers also saw us rebuilding new roads (in the area). Only after we started (the work), they came to discuss the plantations that were destroyed or seized.”

There were 21 people from Zin village that owned rubber plantations on the contested land, but they had nothing planted, said Nai Tala Nye.

“The land is mountainous and rocky, although they [the gov’t] said (we would get) 3,000 acres we only got between 1,500 – 1,600 acres. We are not finished checking out the land yet.”

NMSP spokesperson Nai Hong Sar Pone Khain told the Democratic Voice of Burma that if any of the land is already owned then the owners can present the evidence at their liaison office in Mon State capital of Moulmein.

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