Maungdaw, Arakan State: Since the advent of this year, Burma’s border security force (Nasaka) has forced villagers to pay heavy fees for renewing family lists and to take photographs in Maungdaw District in north Arakan,  said a businessman from Maungdaw Town on condition of anonymity.  

The villagers were fleeced for enrolling their newborns and for deleting the names of their deceased from the family list.

Since the first week of February, the villagers of Myoma Kayan Dan (Shikdar) Para of Maungdaw Township have been photographed and their family lists renewed by Nasaka. Two local villagers Abdu Gaffer and Mohamedullah were appointed by Nasaka along with the present Village Peace and Development Council (VPDC) Chairman for collecting and checking the villagers’ lists.

The two unofficial clerks have collected all the family lists of villagers and are checking it in place of Nasaka. They demand Kyat 20,000 to 50,000 from the villagers who want to enlist newborns. If the money is paid, the villagers will not want to go to the Nasaka office. These men are the agents of the Nasaka, said a local villager who declined to be named. 

A villager said, “We have to buy a form, which is signed by the VPDC Chairman for newborn children, for Kyat 2,000, but earlier we bought it for Kyat 500. But this was not informed to us by Nasaka. ”

A village elder from Myoma Kayan Dan village said, “We are forced to pay 5,000 Kyat for removing the names of our deceased family members and 4,000 Kyat for a group photograph.”

The Nasaka and members of the VPDC conduct family lists renewal operations among the Rohingya community in north Arakan in the beginning of every year.

An inhabitant of Maung Nama village of Maungdaw Township said that the family list and photograph renewal operation was completed recently in their locality and they had to pay Kyat 4,000 for a family photograph, Kyat 3,000 for enlisting newborns and Kyat 3,000 for deleting the dead from the list.

A local elder from Powet Chaung village tract of Maungdaw Township said, “We have already paid Kyat 10,000 for a family photograph, Kyat 10,000 for enlisting newborn children, Kyat 20,000 for deleting the name of a man, who has gone abroad, from the list. In our village, taking photographs and renewing family lists started since February 9.”

Another local villager from Powet Chaung village said, “The Nasaka takes photographs from four sides of the mosque, Moqtub (primary level religious school) and Madrasa (Arabic school) and villagers have to pay Kyat 2,500 for one side photograph. So, villagers have to pay Kyat 10,000 per mosque or Moqtub or Madrasa.”

There is no fixed form to collect money from villagers regarding taking photographs and renewing family lists. It depends on the local Nasaka commander, who is the boss of his area, said a trader from Maungdaw Township who declined to be named.   

Though the Burmese junta declared that the exercise is in order to combat illegal immigration into Maungdaw District, which is close to the Bangladesh border, in fact, there is no one entering Burma as an illegal migrant from Bangladesh. But many people go from Arakan to Bangladesh. The listing exercise is because of extortion from Rohingya villagers and for calculation of the Rohingya population and how the regime’s persecution has succeeded in driving Rohingya people from Arakan State, said a local elder from Maungdaw Town.