ILLEGAL TRADE AND CORRUPTION ON THAI-BURMA BORDER
(News report by Banya Hongsar)
October 2003, Measot-Illegal trade, migrants and other activities
seem just part of ordinary life of local people along the
Thai Burma border areas. Myawaddy-Moulmein transportation
is one of the most practical roads for traders during raining
season. During the raining season, Three Pagodas Pass - Moulmein
road is closed for over 3 to 4 months due to inaccessible
road conditions. Local people from the Mon and Karen States
who rely on the border trades are weary of illegal tax collection
at a number of border checkpoints.
Most truck owners didn't make much of a profit during the
last raining season as they are imposed with heavy illegal
cash collection by Burma Army troops and other armed forces
on the border route.
"We must always pay a fee to all border checkpoints
and to our drivers, we net only a few thousand Kyat,"
complained a track owner from Moulmein. If there were more
checkpoints, we would make no money, and sometimes we make
only a small amount," he added.
According to the truck owner, all vehicles pay at least Kyat
18,000 to various checkpoints on the route to Myawaddy from
Moulmein, the capital city of Mon State. They pay the Burmese
troops, traffic police, local police force, Immigration Police
(lawaka), Guards to bridges, troop of DKBA (Democratic Karen
Buddhist Army) and local security forces. The truck owners
pay sometimes as much as Kyat 30,000 including a gas fee for
one trip including return. They charge Kyat 2,500 per passenger
and if they bring no goods to Moulmein the owner makes no
profit. All illegal goods from Thailand are sold on Burmese
soil at Myawaddy because the truck owners bringing goods to
Moulmein will be punished by the authority if goods from Thailand
are found in the truck.
The local traders say that recently security forces are searching
through all packages and boxes. The security officers rip
open the boxes with a small knife looking for explosives and
other related materials. The authorities are suspecting everyone
and searching for anti-government arms forces that often use
the road via local traders bringing weapons inside the country.
Traffic Control Board managed by U Kyi Win, Director of the
Board, monitors all trucks entering into and departing Myawaddy
town, the other side of Measot, Thailand with track records.
All vehicles are photographed including license number plates
for security. The Board charges Kyat 200 to every vehicle
for this procedure.
Recently, the Royal Thai Government and Burmese authority
led by State Peace and Development Council agreed to deport
illegal migrants to return home and a "Temporary Holding
Centre" was set up in Myawady town.
According to Ko Soe, the truck driver, despite Myawaddy-
Measot is officially opened for border trade between the two
countries; local traders cannot buy and sell goods. However,
members of the pro Rangoon armed group, the DKBA, ignore the
order and bring in whatever they like in their trucks.
"They (DKBA) travel armed while driving their vehicles,
so the government troops dare not give them trouble,"
says the local trader. "A few vehicles with registration
by the DKBA have a better opportunity because the DKBA soldiers
sit in their cars for protection", he added.
Both the New Mon State Party and the DKBA are members of
cease-fire agreement camps to SPDC in Burma. They have access
to border trade and other local business in the country. According
to traders, truck owners who are members of DKBA have more
of a chance to deal with various checkpoints than do the members
Local Immigration Officers ban all girls and young women
crossing to the border towns without accompanying male siblings.
Two young girls who planned to visit their siblings at Myawaddy
were turned back to ThanPhyu Zayat on the second week of September.
Authorities assume young girls are illegal migrants to Thailand.
Despite the Royal Thai Government declaration of no further
legal employment status for new arrivals to Thailand, many
migrants are seeking to enter Bangkok.
"They earn only Baht 50-60 a day here in Measot, but
in Bangkok they can double their wage." Nai Soe Than,
a Mon business based in Measot said.
Most local traders and businessmen have joined hands with
the cease-fire camps to boost border trade though illegal
activities. Motor vehicles crossing the border are the biggest
supporters of revenue for the cease-fire camps and the Burmese
troops during the dry season. Local car dealers sell used
cars to Burmese traders with a common agreement on the border