Soldiers collect forcible tolls from people on reason of insufficient salaries

Khine Thein

Kyauk Taw: Soldiers are collecting toll taxes from engine-boats that are transporting on the Kaladan River between Kyauktaw in Arakan State and Pletwa in Chin State, said local residents.

“We have to pay Kyat 10,000 to the army battalion LIB-375 based in Kyauktaw for an engine-boat carrying a consignment of goods from Kyauktaw to upper Paletwa. If we don’t pay, our boats are not allowed to go and we have to bring the payment receipt from the battalion for our transport”, said a local boat owner.

The soldiers of the battalion are said to have told the boat owners that they have to collect tolls from the public because their salaries are not sufficient to cover their expenses.

“The army told us that their salaries are not enough for them. So, they have to collect money from us to support themselves”, said another boat owner from Kyauktaw.

He said their engine-boats are allowed for transporting cargo and goods between Kyauktaw and Paletwa only with a permit signed by the Captain G-1 of the LIB-375, which is provided by the battalion after paying tolls.

He said that the boat owners have to pay official taxes and license fees to the local tax department and municipal office for their boats on  the Kyauktaw-Paletwa riverine route as well.

Additionally, the engine-boats have to pay 3 liters of diesel per boat to the army outposts based in along the river situated on the route, he said.

A local trader from Paletwa also said the Meewa Outpost is collecting tolls from the traders depending on the size and quantity of goods they bring in engine-boats from Kyauktaw to Paletwa.

“We have to pay 5,000 Kyat for a barrel of kerosene, 5,000 Kyat for a barrel of petrol, 500 Kyat for a bag of sugar and 300 Kyat each for a bag of pulses, onion and dry fish to the outpost. If we are unable to pay, the soldiers confiscate our goods”, said the trader.

It is said that the local people are trading in diesel, petrol, fish seasonings, dry fish, fishes, clothes and other commodities from Kyauktaw to Paletwa while horticultural crops as well as electronics, cell-phones, solar-plates and rice-cookers imported from India, are being brought in to Kyauktaw from Paletwa that is situated on Indian border.

An ordinary soldier is currently paid Kyat 75,000 per month by the government in Burma. The soldiers however claim that their salaries are not sufficient for their families and are continuing to rob money from the people by levying toll taxes in the region, said the sources.