TNLA Denies Sending Extortion Letters Containing Bullets

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 26 May 2017

RANGOON — The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) rejected accusations that the armed group sent letters demanding “tax” from businesses in northern Shan State’s Lashio.

Ten hotels and other businesses this week reported receiving letters from the TNLA demanding payment with a bullet in the envelope, according to business owners and works in the city.

“They [TNLA] always levy tax and extort money, though they may deny doing so to the media,” said a manager of a hotel in Lashio who asked for anonymity, adding that the letter was dated  May 22 and delivered by two men on a motorbike on Tuesday.

Images of the letters quickly went viral on social media despite warnings that concerned parties should not leak the letters.

TNLA information officer Col Mai Ai Kyaw told The Irrawaddy his group was not responsible, though he admitted TNLA troops were active in the area.

“We are still investigating who sent the letters,” he said on Friday. “The letters did not have our seal and letterhead and that is not the way we deliver letters, so, they must be fake.”

He said the letters were sent in the middle of the day and that no armed group would do so for the sake of security.

The colonel admitted levying taxes and soliciting help from some businessmen in Shan State, but declined to reveal the names of the taxpayers and how the tax was imposed.

The letters accuse the relevant companies and businessmen of failing to pay taxes despite TNLA’s tax department requesting payment by phone, the letters shared on social media read.

Tax must be paid by May 24, the letters demanded, and only then would the businesses receive protection from the TNLA.

The ten businesspeople did not pay but filed a case with Lashio Township Police Station, one of the businesspeople said.

On Thursday morning, TNLA troops arrived at Ho Kho Village in Nawnghkio Township, and stopped cars and motorbikes and briefly detained drivers, according to villagers.

“Palaung [TNLA] soldiers arrived at the village around 4 a.m.,” villager U Kyaw Min told The Irrawaddy.

“They inspected those who passed the village, and briefly detained cars. A motorcyclist did not stop and was shot, I don’t know what happened to him,” he added.

The TNLA has not signed the government’s nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) and is a member of the United Wa State Army-led coalition of northern groups that rejects the NCA peace process but has joined the Union Peace Conference this week.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko