KIO Accountant Arrested for Collecting Tax in Hpakant

Burma Army's Light Infantry Division No. 66 soldiers take position near Aung Ba Lay post of KIA Batalion 6 in Hpakant, western Kachin state

A Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) accountant employed by the KIO's armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and an alleged civilian associate, were arrested by Burma army personnel last week after being accused of unlawfully collecting war funds, according to local residents in Kachin state's jade rich Hpakant district where the arrests took place.

Burma army troops from Infantry Battalion 35 claim that at the time of the arrest on 29th October Damau Naw Ja, who worked as an accountant under KIA Battalion Six, and a civilian, Tangbau Hkawng Dau, were in possession of over twenty million kyats (about US$20,000), according to local residents.

They were arrested by a unit of soldiers which was led by Battalion 35 commander Kyaw Kyaw Khaing (based at Tamahkan), while they were travelling from Lai Sai to Tamahkan village, according to pastor Rev. Lama Brang Awng who plans to meet with the pair in the Hpakant Police Station where they are currently being held.

“They were arrested for the illegal collecting of tax” Rev. Lama Brang Awng told the Kachin News Group. According to the pastor both men have been charged with violating sections 386 and 114 of the tax act. Both men were first detained at Tamahkan police station before being sent to the Hpakant police station on the orders of the Battalion commander Kyaw Kyaw Khaing himself.

“In this current situation there are many incidents involving collecting taxes in a lot of places using the KIA’s name, so residents should be clear whether this tax is a KIA tax and whether tax collectors are KIA members or not, because right now some people are trying to destroy us,” a senior KIA officer told the Kachin News Group. The officer who requested anonymity is based at the group's Laiza headquarters.

Both the KIO and its armed wing the KIA collect taxes from gold and jade mining operations in areas under their control. Workers who are engaged in these operations are frequently harassed and detained when they encounter army personnel, the Kachin News Group has been told.

While the KIO frequently calls for those held by the army to be released, nothing is done by the government side explained KIA Lieutenant Colonel Naw Bu.

The Burma army has in recent months greatly increased the number of checkpoints between Myitkyina the Kachin state capital and Hpakant, where nearly all of world's commercially mined jade comes from. The checkpoints are used to extract fees, bribes and other benefits from civilians travelling along the route.

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