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Karenni farmers say they cannot afford $4 annual tax

FILE PHOTO: Karenni farmers march to the fields that were confiscated from them 10 years ago in a "ploughing protest" on Tuesday, 27 May 2014, in Hpruso, near state capital Loikaw. (Photo: DVB)

Residents in Demoso say they cannot afford the amount of tax that the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) charges them every year, and have called for the ethnic armed group to lower its tariffs.

Locals in the Karenni State town say the KNPP imposes an annual tax of about 5,000 kyat (US$4) per household, and that they have been given a 10 October deadline this year to pay up.

A village administrator in Demoso said that locals have requested the ethnic militia to reduce its demands in view of a bad crop yield recently.

“We are not getting good prices for our maize harvest this year,” he told DVB. “Also, our paddy is infested with insects. It has been a bad year for farmers.

“In addition, each household had to pay 100,000 kyat ($80) this year to the Electricity Department to get connected to the grid.”

He said the villagers made a similar request to the KNPP last year, and they were granted a reduced rate of tax.

Khu Toh Reh, the KNPP liaison officer in state capital Loikaw, said his group needs the tax to fund its armed struggle and to establish a sovereign Karenni State within a future federal union.

“We imposed this tax to fund our efforts to bring about a federal union in Burma with ethnic equality,” he said, acknowledging that the KNPP has reduced tariffs in the past following requests from villagers.

He said the militia collects two different types of annual tax from locals – a ‘national tax’ of either a sack of rice or the equivalent in cash, and a ‘commercial tax’, which is 2 percent of their annual income.

“We allow tax exemption for poor locals who are endorsed by their local authorities,” he explained.

The Karenni State, officially now known as Kayah, was never fully incorporated into British Burma in the colonial era and enjoyed a level of sovereignty. It only became a state in post-independence Burma.