Friday, 14 August 2020

Maungdaw, Arakan State: Since January 14, a four-member team from Maungdaw income-tax office and police of Maungdaw town has been collecting arbitrary taxes and toll from Rohingya people excluding those who are non-Rohingya, said a shopkeeper from Maungdaw town requesting anonymity.

The team has been collecting taxes from Rohingya shopkeepers from markets in Maungdaw Township. They have been ordered to collect only Kyat 1,000 to 2,000 per shop, but they have been collecting Kyat 100,000 to 300,000 from every shop, depending on its size.  The group has a nexus with a local market owner Abul Kalam, a notorious aide of Burma’s border security force (Nasaka) of Nasaka area No. 7, Maungdaw Township.
Besides, the police in Maungdaw recently resumed illegal toll collection after arresting Rohingya villagers who go to Maungdaw town from neighbouring villages. When the police see villagers in the town, they are summoned into the police camp and charged with human trafficking, money laundering, crossing border, involvement in heroin business, cattle trading etc, and money is extorted from them.  They are released after paying, said an elder from Maungdaw town requesting anonymity.
Extorting money from villagers was in vogue by police in early 2009, but it was stopped a few months after complaints from many quarters.  However, it was resumed recently against the Rohingya people in Maungdaw Township.
The police know the names of villagers who go to Maungdaw town through local police collaborators. The villagers have no other option except to pay the money, because the villagers have already been in police custody where they were put in a small room with stench.
However, the police released them after taking Kyat 2,000 to 5,000 depending on their financial status.
One of the villagers, who was fleeced by Maungdaw police said, “I went to Maungdaw town   for medicine for my wife. But, on the way to a medicine shop, I was called by a Nasaka collaborator. He took me to the camp saying that they have an inquiry. In the police station, they put me in a small dark room alleging I was involved in cross border smuggling. I have never been to Bangladesh before. I am a farmer not a trader. Later, I was released after paying Kyat 5,000 to the police officer.
Now villagers are reluctant to go to Maungdaw town for marketing or other purposes for fear of arrest. The higher authorities, do not take any action against the police, though the villagers have complained, said a local businessman.
The police, Nasaka and Sarapa (Military Intelligence) in Arakan State have been collecting money from poor Rohingya villages by on false accusations, pushing them below the poverty line by the day.  The junta wants Rohingya villagers to be poor, said a schoolteacher from Maungdaw north.