Armed groups accused of extorting money from livestock traders

Armed groups demanded money from trucks carrying buffaloes and cattle, even going as far as attacking them if they weren’t able to pay the money, said locals from Kyaukme Township.

A 12-wheeled truck carrying buffaloes and cattle came under attack by an unnamed armed group near Bukha village, Kyaukme Township on September 8 which leads to the death of the driver and his companion.

“The state parliament approved to grant a license to the buffaloes and cattle traders. Armed groups extorted money to the traders who were trying to export buffaloes and cattle legally. If they refuse to or are unable to pay the money, the armed groups will shoot them,” said a local from Kyaukme.

Despite the region government’s ban on live buffalo and cattle export previously, it has now been allowed officially to export from Muse 105-mile trade camp due to the presence of livestock smugglers.

While the export is now officially allowed, the problem of unlicensed exporters still exists. The armed groups demanded money whether or not the export is legal, even attacking the traders if they surrendered their goods and ran away.

“A total of five trucks with fake permits are being detained. So who knows how many people are exporting buffalos and cattle unofficially. Some are doing the exports illegally and we knew that. But we cannot arrest them,” said a local.

“The smuggling of cattle has been around for many years. Later, the smugglers used trucks to export the live buffalo and cattle during Thein Sein’s administrative era. However they have to pay under-table money to local armed groups,” he said.

Armed groups attacked trucks a total of seven times from January in Kyaukme Township killing eight people and injuring nine.

Ethnic armed groups such as Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and other militia groups are operating in northern Shan State.