Two Thai groups are making protests by blocking border crossings near Mae Sot, Thailand, across from Myawaddy, Karen State. One group is protesting what they feel to be unfair competition from Burmese transport trucks. The other is complaining about late payments for agricultural purchases.
Beginning on March 2nd, at least ten 10-wheel trucks began blocking the Nong Bua crossing between Burma and Thailand. According to an IMNA source that spoke with protesters from both groups as well as Thai police, the trucks were there because of agricultural purchases.
The Thai government purchased corn from area farmers over a month ago, said the source, but has yet to provide the payments promised to farmers.
Today, at least 150 Thai-owned pick-up trucks began clogging the road from the Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge, which links Mae Sot and Myawaddy.
According to the IMNA source, the truck drivers are unhappy about what they feel to be unfair competition from Burmese transport trucks. The drivers all operate trucks that bring passengers from the Thai side of the border crossing to the town of Mae Sot. The trip costs 15 baht, and the trucks are sometimes stopped and searched by Thai authorities.
A group of Burmese trucks, meanwhile, have organized their operations with Thai authorities and are able to transport passengers directly from Myawaddy to Mae Sot without being searched. Business has, consequently, become quite popular, cutting into the number of passengers available for the Thai drivers.
The Thai drivers made a complaint to local authorities but received no help, said the source.
Both protests are expected to continue tomorrow.
Though the traffic-jams cum protests are causing headaches for travelers, other businesspeople accustomed to periodic government border closures are continuing about their business.
“Because of the protest, now the traders have to use another way to get to Mae Sot,” a Myawaddy resident told IMNA. “They are going by boat.”