The art of restricting travels by extortion in Shan State

As more people, taking advantage of the somewhat freer environment created under the present government, have come out to travel around, authorities are also taking advantage of the new development to extort more and more money from them, according to Shan Human Rights Foundation’s January report published yesterday.

“Extortion has ironically increased during 2012, especially at various checkpoints manned by the Burmese military, police and their cohorts all over Shan State,” it says. “It happened virtually right after the civilian government came to power and the situation appears to be worse than before.”

A checkpoint on the Kengtung-Mongla road (Photo: SHAN)

A checkpoint between Pung Pa Khem and Boundary Post (BP) #1, opposite Chiangmai province is a case in point. It used to extort 300 baht ($ 10) from each traveler earlier, but since October has started to demand 500 baht ($ 16.7) from each.

Another checkpoint in Murng Nai (Mong Nai) used to demand 3,000 kyat ($ 3.3) from passenger van drivers before 2012. But now they are required to pay 3 times the original rate. A driver, after paying the military officials K 9,000 ($9.9), was forced to pay another K 150,000 ($ 167) to the police officials nearby. “The driver said after he had got back home and had done some calculation, he found that all the money he had earned from carrying 4 passengers had all gone to the checkpoints on the way,” says the report.

According to the local people in Loilem, it is not uncommon to hear police and soldiers complain about the situation. “They said they had to do it as a means of livelihood because their official salaries were not enough even to feed their families, let alone to send their children to school and to buy other necessities,” it says.
Hkun Kya Oo
Summing up, some people suspect that the phenomenon is just one of the indirect ways of imposing travel restrictions by the authorities. “In this way, many people would be discouraged to travel because they could hardly afford the costs of the journey, and will think twice if the journey is worth traveling.”

Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) was founded on 6 December 1990 under the leadership of Hkun Kya Oo, son of Hkun Kya Bu, a signatory of the 1947 Panglong Agreement. Its publications include Dispossessed: Forced relocation and Extrajudicial killings in Shan State (1998) and License to rape: The Burmese regime’s use of sexual violence in the ongoing war in Shan State (2002) together with Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN).

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