Army Soldiers Accused of Bootlegging in Matupi
23 April 2012: Army soldiers based in Matupi town have been engaged in selling alcoholic drinks to the locals near Phanai village in Matupi Township, Chin State amid prohibition attempts by the local community.
Warrant Officer Maung Soe and three soldiers from Burma Army Light Infantry Battalion No. 140 are accused of ‘disrespecting’ community-initiated anti-alcohol campaigns and of bootlegging, according to a Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) source.
A local leader said the soldiers are camping near Phanai village for months and being allowed to sell alcohol by orders of Battalion Commander Major Saw Myint.
“We have managed to ban local people from selling alcohols in our area and for that, the youth group in association with community leaders make a yearly tax payment of 25 lakh kyats for the alcohol license to Naypyidaw,” said the community leader.
In many parts of Chin State, local communities bought the license from the government to pre-empt anyone from selling alcohol.
The soldiers have also been criticized for taking advantage of the anti-alcohol campaign organized by the local youth group and community leaders.
“It is very sad and shocking that the soldiers started selling alcoholic drinks rather than helping our programme to combat social problems facing our community. And they even sell them at higher prices. They are not supposed to destroy but protect the people,” added the Chin local.
The price for one bottle has increased from 1,000 to 2,500 kyats.
In recent weeks, alcohol-related problems have emerged in the local community with some being involved in stealing, while others are working as the soldier’s agents for trading liquor.
“Our campaign has not been successful because we cannot ban soldiers and police as well as Burmese government employees from this destructive business. And it is a clear indication of ignoring the voices of the people,” continued the leader.
In Matupi town, the youth group and community leaders in partnership with an alliance of Christian denominations started the movement of anti-alcohol campaign programme in 2010.
Earlier this year, a Buddhist monk abbot in Lungler village of Thantlang Township, Chin State was accused of covertly getting engaged in trading and selling alcoholic drinks to the locals.
Reporting by Thawng Zel Thang