Boat travelers on the Zami waterways in the Three Pagoda and Kyain Seikgyi Township region of in Karen State claim they are tax targets of various armed soldiers.
Mi Myint, a traveler who was taxed when using traveling on the river spoke to Karen News.
“Boat fees are 32,000kyat. The boat driver on our trip paid for us at the checkpoints from Chaung Sone to Waytar Li. We travelers had to pay for ourselves at the other checkpoints between Waytar Li to Kyain Seikgyi.”
Mi Myint explained that travelers have to take two boats and the boat fees are 17,000kyat from Chaung Sone to Kyun Chaung and 15,000kyat from Kyun Chaung to Kyain Seikgyi.
A local villagers said that there are as many as four passenger boats using the Zami waterways and that they each have to pay 1000kyat for each person at six different checkpoints operated by different soldiers including New Mon State Party, Karen National Union, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army and the Burma Army.
A KNU official at the Kyun Chaung checkpoint in the Three Pagoda area confirmed to Karen News that villagers are using the waterways a lot more during the monsoon season, but he did not confirmed that they were collecting taxes from travelers.
During the monsoon season from late April to early October, people living in the villages in the Three Pagoda area depend on using the river for travel, as vehicle roads are unusable due to the heavy rains.
A resident from the Three Pagoda Town alleged that the boat drivers were working together with the armed groups to collect the ‘taxes’.
“The boats drivers and the checkpoints commander are cooperating to collect the tax. In previous years there was no such thing as taxes. Now we have to pay and it is annoying. Some travelers are taking motorbike taxis when they arrive at Kyun Chanung rather than argue with the checkpoint commanders.
Local people confirmed that the checkpoints along the Zami waterways are operated by the Karen National Union, the New Mon State Party, the Burma Army and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army.