Motorbike drivers arbitrarily taxed in Kyaikmayaw Township
October 29, 2013
HURFOM: The highway that connects Mudon and Kyaikmayaw townships is a busy corridor for area residents. Manual laborers travel the passage daily to work the many adjacent rubber plantations, moto-taxi drivers pick up fares in nearby villages, and merchants buy goods in Moulmein, the capital of Mon State, to bring back and sell to local communities. But residents reported that since earlier this year, an illicit tollgate has been set up on the road and manned by individuals from a number of local groups, including police and militia members, who unfairly target and tax motorbike drivers.
Travelers and villagers alleged that the tollgate appears almost every day in one of two locations in Kyaikmayaw Township, either on the main road near Kalaing Kamaw Mountain or at the base of a hill in Ka Dar village. Residents said they would welcome tollgates that fairly policed motorbike drivers who lack valid licenses or fail to use helmets, but reported that in this case, the tollgate attendants arbitrarily exact payment from passersby and demand at least 1,000 kyat from every driver, regardless of the existence of legal violations.
“On the 10th of October, we three brothers paid 2,000 kyat for two motorbikes as we were going to our relative’s house at noon,” said 22-year-old Mudon resident Mg Lwin. “There are [people at the tollgate from many different] groups including traffic police, militias, firemen, and township administration. They have stopped and taxed every motorbike without reason for almost five months. News from this area does not get into the media so the group can easily carry out this kind of abuse against residents. We, the residents, view that this kind of abuse should not exist in the [democratic] transition period. There are 500 to 600 motorbikes that travel that road each day so we can calculate how much they benefit since they tax 1,000 kyat per bike.”
Rubber plantation owner Nai Mon Aye, 52, regularly travels the highway to his 20 acres in Taung Ka Lay village. According to him, “Residents who go to their rubber plantations are taxed because they take the road to work. I go [the same way to] work all the time and sometimes I forget to wear a helmet if I have to carry heavy stuff, but they don’t understand my situation. They are like legal robbers because they stop and tax every motorbike that passes without reason. I already paid four times this year. Even worse, [members of the tollgate attendant group] just sit and drink beer after they divvy out the money from the tollgate, and we know that but we just don’t speak out. We do not want this kind of abuse occurring in this period of [democratic] change.”