According to a truck driver, these checkpoints have been implementing varying charges based on the size of vehicles and the nature of goods being transported, since the end of April.
“The charges imposed on large vehicles at the checkpoint are unreasonably steep. In some instances, when passing through, they are coerced into paying exorbitant sums of up to 200,000 kyats. Compliance with these demands is mandatory, as motorists are too afraid to refuse. Along the route from the entrance to the Trade Zone, a total of seven checkpoints can be found. Among them, two are manned by police and soldiers, while other two are under the control of the BGFs. For passenger vehicles, the fees extracted may vary based on the number of passengers and the type of goods being transported.
Such extortion began a considerable time after the region’s conflict had subsided”, he said.
The exorbitant tolls imposed at these checkpoints have compelled truck drivers to minimize their journeys, while passenger vehicles have been burdened with inflated fares. Consequently, the reduced number of passengers has led to challenging circumstances for some highway lines, making it increasingly difficult for them to sustain operations.
“Due to the escalating toll charges at checkpoints, we are compelled to collect higher fares from passengers. As a consequence, we have observed a recent decline in the number of passengers. Presently, the only passengers we encounter are those traveling to Bangkok or individuals commuting via motorbikes. When the fares collected from passengers fail to cover the mounting checkpoint expenses, we are left with no choice but to bear the financial burden ourselves”, a passenger bus driver told KIC.
Following the assault on the Myawaddy Trade Zone by the Cobra Column of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) on March 25th, the Military Council and its affiliated armed forces in the area experienced a decline in their strength. However, security measures have since been reinforced, resulting in tightened security once again, locals said.
After these security measures were heightened, the Military Council and BGFs began imposing substantial fees on all vehicles passing through the Myawaddy Trade Zone.