Vendors in Three Pagodas Pass question tax increase

October 4, 2012

HURFOM: Township municipal authorities and market organizers in a Three Pagodas Pass marketplace have increased vendor taxes to fund the construction of a new facility on the site. While merchants struggle to manage the higher operating cost, they are also asking why the renovation project is necessary when the structure was already closed, demolished, and rebuilt in 2006. In response to the higher tax, and what shopkeepers claim to be an arbitrary development project that forces them to buy back their own stalls, over 50 vendors signed a letter of appeal that was submitted to the Sub-Township administrator on September 5, 2012.

Market retailers allege that since June of this year, township municipal administrator U Ye Lin Oo and market organizer U Kyaw Shwe have raised the monthly vendor tax from 1,400 kyat (50 baht) to 2,240 kyat (80 baht), and contend that their modest incomes cannot keep up with the hike. Shopkeepers also assert that the stalls remain in good shape after the previous renovation, which complicates the reasoning behind the current construction project.

In 2006, under the direction of U Kyaw Shwe, the organizer currently promoting the second remodeling, and the Township Municipal, Engineering, and Market Organizing Committee, the market was torn down and rebuilt, resulting in shopkeepers who were unable to work during construction and were subsequently asked to buy back their stalls in the new market structure. This time, the merchants are required to pay even more to secure a spot in the renovated space.

“The authorities came and measured the market site for the new construction project and are going to charge 35,000 baht per stall,” said U Kyaw Shwe, who also plans to sell any space not purchased by previous owners at 100,000 baht per stall.

Vendor Ma Su said, “I bought my 8’ by 10’ stall in 2006 and regularly pay the 50 baht vendor tax each month. Now, I have to pay the vendor tax and fund the Township municipal [construction] project. For this reason, I want to protest the unfair tax increase.”

Merchants are asking that the cost of municipal development projects, such as the market reconstruction, be spread out over the entire community.

A political observer and resident of quarter No. 3 in Three Pagodas Pass commented on the increase of civil society protests, and commended local residents for exercising their rights. “Many of the demonstrations that people are leading are a direct outcome of the changing situation in Burma. Political parties are now teaching people how to [protest]. For instance, the USDP [Union Solidarity and Development Party] is speaking out against unfair practices, and ethnic political parties are educating the public on how to address injustice, so people are actively criticizing cases of corruption and are less afraid to do so.”

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