Approximately 80 villagers from Paukbinkwin Village were reportedly captured and held for ransom last Wednesday by an armed Mon splinter group.
The group, led by Nai Lwin and Nai Saung, detained residents in the morning as they went to work in the orchards and rubber plantations around Paukbinkwin Village in Yebyu Township, Tenasserim Division.
“They [the armed group] came to inform us that the remaining villagers must go and pay the ransom. We were threatened that if we did not pay, the hostages would be in mortal danger, and they threatened us in many ways. They have the list of how many households and villagers there are in the village. So every villager has to go and give money,” said a Paukbinkwin resident to MNA over the phone.
MNA was also told that the village has over 430 households and that each was asked to pay the armed group between 50,000 Kyat and 250,000 Kyat.
The group is believed to have around 20 men and is armed with handguns and rifles, according to an eyewitness in the village.
“Just this morning [February 19], the village head informed residents not to leave the village and that the army [Light Infantry Battalion No. 280] ordered a closure of the [surrounding] forest,” said a villager.
He added that the group, led by Mon Chan and operating under the name Mon National Defense Army, had also demanded payments from Paukbinkwin residents in January.
Since 2000, Mon splinter groups based in the predominantly ethnic Mon areas of southern Ye Township, Mon State, and Yebyu Township, Tenasserim Division, have reportedly abducted residents and robbed nearby villagers.