Tatmadaw Soldiers Try to Extort Money From Tractor Drivers: Local Source

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By Larnun – Two Burmese soldiers attempted to extort—at gunpoint—7 million kyats (more than US$4,600) from two men driving tractors in Chin State’s Falam Township last week, locals told Khonumthung News.

The men, who are residents of Vaphai village in Mizoram, India, had come to work in road construction in Falam when the incident occurred on the evening of January 11. 

They were arrested by the Burmese police, according to Zautea, another villager from Vaphai. The police allegedly released the drivers on the same day after taking 500,000 kyats ($330) from them.

Continuing toward Falam on their tractors, the men were again stopped, this time by Burma Army troops near Tibual village, and were reportedly told to pay 7 million kyats. After unsuccessful negotiations, the drivers turned their tractors around to return to Mizoram, but the soldiers pursued them and attempted to arrest them.

Zautea told Khonumthung News that he witnessed this.

“Two Burmese soldiers followed the drivers until they reached Vaphai village. The soldiers took away the keys [to the tractor]and other documents. The soldiers tried to bring them back to Burma. The two drivers were afraid,” he explained. “Viphai villagers tried to stop the Burmese soldiers. The village headman reported it to the Indian Assam rifle forces. When soldiers from the Assam rifle forces arrived in the village and talked with the Burmese soldiers, then the keys and other documents were returned.”

The Indian soldiers allegedly brought the Burmese soldiers to their camp, but released them the same night.

Chin State has a shortage of tractor drivers, so it is not uncommon for drivers from Mizoram to come and seek work across the border in Burma. However, following this incident, the headman of Vaphai village warned locals not to travel to the neighboring country.

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