Military personnel of the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA), the armed wing of the New Mon State Party (NMSP), began taxing residents of some villages in Kyaikmayaw Township, Mon State, earlier this month.
Nai Hongsar, NMSP’s vice-chairman, stated that the money should be regarded as a tax, not extortion.
“For our men to be maintained in some areas the need to collect these fees is unavoidable. It is not a lot of money. [Soldiers] only ask local residents to give as much as they can. This is not extortion; it should be viewed as a tax. The government uses its budget to provide for the Tatmadaw [government army]. We can only rely on the public to support our troops. We are here because the people support us. We are not charging them too much.”
NMSP troops reportedly began collecting 3,000 kyats or three ‘Pyi,’ a measurement of rice, from households in Kyaikmayaw Township on June 6. Requests were made in the village tracts of Kadar, Kanar Lo, Maegro, and Than-ga Laung, according to Member of Parliament Min Aung Mon who represents the Kyaikmayaw constituency.
In 1995, the government provided monthly rations and financial support to the NMSP after the resistance group signed a ceasefire agreement with the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC).
Now, say party representatives, NMSP’s signatures on a state-level ceasefire agreement and bi-lateral union-level ceasefire agreement with the previous administration have not yet resulted in an offer of government support.
The NMSP did not sign the national ceasefire agreement inked by eight other ethnic armed groups last October.