Tolls increase at new Border Guard Force gate
March 12, 2013
HURFOM: An important commercial route that connects the Thai-Burmese border to Ye Township in Mon State runs across a series of adjacent areas under the distinct control of the Karen National Union (KNU), Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), and New Mon State Party (NMSP). Before last October, the road was marked by five tollgates, three managed by Karen groups and two by the NMSP, until a new gate was established by the Burmese Border Guard Forces [BGF] in Nae Phyar, close to where the road inclines to straddle Dey Byu Mountain. Around 40 truck drivers report regularly using the road to transport materials, and complaints have mounted that the newest toll is damaging trade revenue.
“When [the BGF] initially entered the area, they demanded just half the tax that other gates asked for,” said one truck driver. “If the NMSP collected 700 baht from each truck, [the BGF] took just 400 baht. But now, they take more than the other tollgates. Transportation [via this route] is not convenient for us now. The amount of tax we have to pay is increasing and there is not much [profit] left for us.”
After the NMSP agreed to a ceasefire with the Burmese military in February 2012, the Border Guard Force reportedly entered into a cooperation with the DKBA near Nae Phyar, a village controlled by the KNU but bordering on NMSP-administered area, although the tollgate was not established until the rainy season concluded in October.
“It is easy to negotiate with [toll collectors at] the Mon gates, but we always encounter difficulty with the Burmese Border Guard Forces [regarding] the tax,” said a truck owner who transports goods from Sangkhlaburi to Ye Township. “[The BGF] always demand double the tax charged by other tollgates. Although they are paid salaries by the government, they still collect double the tax. Each traveler has to pay 2,000 Kyat to that gate while other gates ask 1,000 Kyat.”
He added that, each time he passed through the gate, he appealed to the BGF toll collectors to charge the same amount as other groups, but was allegedly intimidated at gunpoint and once had his vehicle fired upon after refusing to pay the tax.