40 tribal villages in Paletwa face hardship as Military Council restricts food medicine and impose illegal fees
Narinjara News, March 18, 2023
A maritime checkpoint operated by the Military Council in Paletwa Township Chin State, has imposed restrictions on the transportation of civilian medicine and food,resulting in significant difficulties for approximately 40 tribal villages in the surrounding areas.
The Military Council forces, currently stationed on a hill near Tarunaing (Ywarthit) village in Paletwa, have established a maritime checkpoint along the banks of the Kaladan River. They are conducting inspections of civilian boats engaged in trading to Kyauktaw township, and extorting money from the traders, locals said.
“Various ethnic groups including Khumi, Chin and Rakhine reside in this region. Transportation of essential items such as medicine and food from Kyauktaw to Paletwa is part of their daily survival.
However their movement is hindered by military checkpoints.The soldiers stationed near Tarunaing not only restrict the transportation of these items, but also frequently demand money from the travelers, creating a dilemma for the locals”, a local Chin man told Narinjara.
As a result of the haraasment from military checkpoints, approximately 40 tribal villages such as Chinlat Wa, Myeik Wa, Oat Thalin, Sayti Kaing, Sin Oh Wa, and Doe Chaung Wa, from village tracts of Oat Thalin Chaung, Kalat Chaung, and Chinlat Chaung in the upper reaches of the Kaladan River, starting from Tarunaing, are experiencing serious hardship.
These villages are primarily inhabited by the Khumi, Rankine and Chin , as well as some minority tribes.
During the construction to fortify the military base in Tarunaing, the Military Council troops demanded money, bricks, sand, stones, and wood from the locals by force.
A boat owner, who preferred to remain anonymous, stated that although the troops no longer make such requests, they frequently impose fees of up to 500,000 kyat for commercial boats to pass by.
“When cargo boats arrive from Kyauktaw in Rakhine state, they usually demand 500,000 kyat for each passage. If you pay the requested amount, they grant you permission to pass without any further issues. However boats that refuse to pay may be delayed or prevented from passing through the checkpoint”, he claimed. Locals complain that the checkpoint negatively affects the flow of trade, leading to higher costs.
The Kaladan River waterway between Paletwa-Kyauktaw was reopened on December 3rd of last year after the fighting between the Arakan Army (AA) and the Military Council ceased.
Nevertheless, the military checkpoint still stands in Tarunaing, where the soldiers
persist in extorting money from the public with various excuses. The lack of action taken by officials to address these illegal activities at the checkpoint is causing concern among locals, who feel disheartened.
The Kaladan River plays a crucial role in the livelihoods of the residents of Paletwa, as they rely heavily on it to import and purchase essential goods from Kyauktaw.
According to frequent users of the Kaladan waterway, approximately 200 soldiers belonging to the battalions under the 19th Military Operational Command based in Mon State are stationed on the hill near Tarunaing village. These soldiers regularly halt boats passing by the checkpoint and demand money from the passengers. It is estimated that around 7 soldiers engage in this activity each day.
Narinjara would like to reach out to the Military Council concerning the illegal act of extorting
money from civilians. However due to the lack of available resources or individuals to respond, it is currently not feasible to make such contact.