The Unity Committee for Karen armed groups held a special meeting to discuss the management of the tollgates on the Myawaddy-Kawkareik section of the Asia highway in Karen State. Currently the gates are run by different Karen armed groups that has caused difficulties for travelers and traders who need to use the road on a regular basis.
The meeting took place on May 28th to 29th and was held in Karen National Liberation Army Brigade 7 Headquarters. A senior Karen National Union spokesperson told Karen News that to make life easier for road users the armed groups decided that they would merge forces and would stop having separate Karen armed groups running tollgates.
Padoh Roger Khin, a member of the KNU Defense Department was part of the discussions at the meeting told Karen News that, “because of the many tollgates on this road, it is difficult for civilians and travelers.”
The urgent meeting on the Asia Highway tollgates was organized in response to number of recent problems between the Karen armed groups. A total of 60 people including, KNU vice-chairman, KNLA commander general, other top leaders, representative from other Karen armed groups and observers, attended the meeting.
Following the meeting, three groups – KNU, DKBA, KNU/KNLA (PC) – agreed that they would have two combined tollgates, one in Kawkareik and the other in Thingan Nyi Naung and they would start from the early June.
It is understood that along the new road, there are a total of eight tollgates, including the government’s army and the armed groups – KNU, DKBA, KNU/KNLA (PC). Based on the money collected, it is the road that not only receives the most negative criticisms from civilians but also causes the most problems among armed groups.
General Saw Kyaw Thet, from the DKBA Klohtoowah Tactical Unit, said. “The main reason for the combination agreement is because of requests and complaints from the public. This decision will be good for both civilians and for us. We now have to explain the process to the station based personnel.
According to an officer from the government’s Karen militia, the Border Guard Force, who attended the meeting, the combined tollgates are the result of the discussions and negotiations between Karen armed groups. The officer explained that there is word yet on whether government army gates would join the groups or operate separate tollgates.
A driver, who regularly uses the road and asked to remain anonymous, told Karen News that the outcome of the meeting was a good result for the public and traders.
“If this happens, it will be good for both the travelers and drivers like us. As of now, there are still 8 gates – the KNU, DKBA, PC and Burma army, and we have to pay 1,000kyat at each gate. However, at the DKBA gate, 1,000 kyat is never enough, they demand 2,000 kyat. They say the orders come from HQ. They said if we don’t pay 2,000 kyat then we cannot pass”.
On March 4th, the Unity Committee for Karen armed groups closed the new Myawaddy-Kawkareik route that has been under construction since November 2012. Both the government’s army and the Karen armed groups, set up tollgates and allowed cars and travelers to use the road and collected money. This resulted in many complaints from the public.