Mon 22 Feb 2010, Tukha, Mi Yin Mon
According to automobile owners and travelers from the region, both the police force and the people’s milita from Arbit Village in southern Mudon Township, as well as a branch of the Thanphyuzayart Town police force, have each respectively set up new checkpoints on the motorway between Three Pagodas Pass and Abit this January.
Vehicle owners informed IMNA that 18 checkpoints belonging to a mélange of groups already existed along the route; the newly established tolls raise the number to 21. The division of checkpoints along the Three Pagodas Pass to Abit motor road is now divides as follows: the Abit police force, 1 checkpoint; the Thanphyuzayart Town police section, 1 checkpoint; the Abit peoples’ militia,1 checkpoint; Nai Aung Naing’s armed group, 1 check point; Artillery Battalion no. 318, 1 checkpoint; The police force from Three Pagodas Pass, 1 checkpoint; the Democratic Karen Buddha Army (DKBA), 4 checkpoints; the Karen Peace Force (KPF), 4 checkpoints; the Karen National Union (KNU)’ 1 checkpoint; Burmese soldiers from Chaung zone village near Three Pagodas Pass’ 1 checkpoint; the Abit village chairman, 1 checkpoint; and the New Mon State Party (NMSP), 4 checkpoints. Traders and vehicle drivers explained to IMNA that the new checkpoints were likely set up due to the increasing numbers of travelers currently using the Abit to Three Pagoda’s Pass motorway; many of these groups view the growing traveler levels as a chance for financial gain. In addition, some drivers speculated that the establishment of Nai Aung Naing’s armed group’s checkpoint along the road, also in January 2010, prompted the other factions to jump at establishing checkpoint territories of their own.
According to a vehicle owner for the area, “They didn’t actually build booths for the check points, the men just stand [in the groups’ respective selected locations] and wait [for vehicles] and ask for money. The checkpoints each demand between 5000 and 8000 kyat per vehicle. The increased number of check points are making financial difficulties for the vehicles owners and traders.”
According to reports, the recent rush to establish checkpoints along the route has instigated friction between Artillery Battalion (AB) no. 318, based in Arbit village, and the police force from Thanphyuzayart town; AR no. 318 reportedly feels that the Thanphyuzayart group’s checkpoint, located very near Arbirt village, impinges on the battalion’s physical and financial territory.
“The police from Thanphyuzayart opened a checkpoint gate in Abit, [in Mudon Township], but it’s [Mudon Township] not their area,” an NMSP ex-serviceman, who used to man one of the party’s checkpoints on the motorway informed IMNA.
Automobile owners commented to IMNA that the motor road between Three Pagodas Pass and Abit village is far more heavily trafficked than the Three Pagoda Pass to Thanphyuzayart route; the former involves less traveling time, and despite the recently increased numbers of checkpoints, still costs less in checkpoint extortion fees.