Authorities extort money on new pretext from Rohingya community

In Northern Arakan, the mobile has become a tool for the local authorities to extort money from the Rohingya community, according to Kamal, a student from Maungdaw.

“It is only aimed at the Rohingya community,” he said.

A mobile is not easy to acquire in Burma and one has to deposit a huge amount of money to the authorities to get permission. It only functions in Burma proper and not in border areas like Northern Arakan, where most Rohingya ethnic people live, he said.

However, in Northern Arakan, most people use Bangladeshi mobile phones to communicate, which is illegal in Burma.

The authorities from Northern Arakan have legalized the illegal mobiles by demanding money from the Rohingya community, in the form of monthly rent. Some officers also use it as a tool to earn easy money, Kamal pointed out.

Most of the officers and the members of the Rakhine community use Bangladeshi mobile phones easily, without any harassment from any quarter and it is not illegal for them to use it in Burma, he said, explaining the system in Northern Arakan.

Some high level border security officers also use this strategy in their respective areas to earn easy money.

Similarly, the Burmese border security force, Nasaka Sector number six Commander, Major Nay Myo used this system in his area to extort money: Kyat 100,000 from Hafiz Sham Shu, son of Syed Karim on August 25, Kyat 150,000 from Mvi Abdul Salam, son of Afzol on August 26, Kyat 430,000 from Mohammed Nur, son of Syed Nur, on September 2, Kyat 250,000 from Mohamed Salay, son of Ismail on September 8, and Kyat 500,000 needed to release Abu Siddique, son of Abul Kassim, since he had earlier been arrested.

Other cases had also been filed under false allegations of using illegal Bangladeshi mobile phones and other commanders are using tactics to rent mobiles by force, from the wealthy people in the area, on a monthly rent of Kyat 100,000.

Some commanders seized mobiles from the local Rohingya people with the help of their collaborators, who use these same phones secretly. After the phones were seized, the user had to pay huge amounts of money or serve a jail term, Kamal said.

In one place, there are two systems for using Bangladeshi mobile phones. One system is to use it freely like officers and the Rakhine community and another system is to pay money to use these Bangladeshi mobiles. This is blatant discrimination and harassment for the Rohingya community, Kamal said.

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