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New report reveals ‘The Hidden Impact of Burma’s Arbitrary and Corrupt Taxation’

By Network for Human Rights Documentation-Burma  •  September 1, 2010

The Network for Human Rights Documentation-Burma (ND-Burma) released its first report, “We have to give them so much that our stomachs are empty of food: The Hidden Impact of Burma’s Arbitrary and Corrupt Taxation.”  Based on 342 interviews, the report reveals how widespread, arbitrary taxation damages the country’s economy, exacerbates poverty, and contributes to the ongoing and systematic violation of the people’s most basic right to an adequate standard of living, housing, and education.

ND-Burma’s report reveals how the Burma’s ruling military regime, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), and its supporting agencies are responsible for this repressive taxation system which includes the appropriation of non-monetary assets including the arbitrary confiscation of land, property and forced labor, indicating serious breaches of international laws.

While the majority of the people of Burma live in abject poverty, the regime spends a paltry (CIA) 1.3%  of GDP on health and education, and Burma is the only country in the region whose military budget is greater than that of health and education combined.[1]

ND Burma’s research revealed that households and businesses are excessively taxed leaving more and more people struggling to survive.  Not only is taxation excessive but the poor administration of the system means that households and businesses do not know when taxes have to be paid and the size of their tax liabilities.  This is coupled with a system of government expenditure that is not directed towards the needs of Burma’s population, instead resources are allocated to a bloated military and economically wasteful and expensive infrastructure projects.

A villager from Mon State describes the burden of taxation, “On average, we villagers have to provide military government organizations with more than 10,000 Kyat a month (≈10 USD). Even though we have no food to eat, we still have to pay them. At the hands of the SPDC we have to work harder but we still have not enough food for our families.”

Mr. Han Gyi, Coordinator of ND-Burma commented on the report: “This report also reveals the pressing need for recognition of the wide scale human rights impact of the arbitrary and corrupt taxation in Burma.  Political reforms including the demobilization of soldiers are urgently needed if the present system of taxation is to cease, along with action from the international community to support a Commission of Inquiry (COI) into crimes in Burma. We have almost no expectation that people’s lives will improve after the 2010 elections because the political system will still be controlled by senior military personal who have a vested interest in maintaining a large standing army. Real changes to the people’s livelihoods will only happen when genuine political reform takes place and democratic systems are developed that give people the opportunity to influence taxation and expenditure decisions, the rights to private property, when extortion is brought under control, and people’s representatives are chosen freely and fairly and then are answerable to their communities.”

For more information:

Burmese Interviews –
Lway Dang Jar, ph: 082 225 1569
Ko Tate Naing – ph: 081 287 8751

English Interviews –
Ms. Cheery Zahau, ph: 084  921 3423
Mr. Han Gyi, ph:081 961 5992

The full report will be available at the ND Burma website here.


[1] Turnell, Sean. Burma’s Economic Watch Burma’s Economy 2010, Reforms, and the ‘Sanctions Question’, 2009 December.

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