A top official from the Karen National Union (KNU) said yesterday that it was Myanmar president Thein Sein himself who gave ethnic armed groups envelopes containing car permits for peace, which critics have said has resulted in a huge loss of revenues for the country.
Pado Mann Nyein Maung, a KNU central executive committee member, disclosed the information to reporters at the Myanmar Peace Centre (MPC) in Yangon amid public criticism of the ‘car for peace’ permits as a pretext for signing preliminary ceasefire deals.
“I received those car permits. The president held a reception for us on February 13 (the day after Union Day). At his farmhouse, he gave an envelope to each of our ethnic armed organisations. I didn’t know what was inside and didn’t open it, either. When I arrived back, I gave it to my chairman. Later I came to know it contained car permits,” said Mann Nyein Maung.
As to the number of car permits given to the armed groups, President’s Office Minister Aung Min, who is leading peace talks, and MPC officials did not comment on the record. But the KNU official disclosed details of how many permits the ethnic armed groups, including his own, received.
Thus far, 14 armed groups had reportedly received car permits. They are the KNU, RCSS/SSA, SSPP/SSA, KNU/KNLA, DKBA, KNPP, CNF, NSCN-K, PNLO, NMSP, UWSA, NDAA, ALP and ABSDF.
According to Man Nyein Maung, there are other armed groups to whom the government is expected to give car permits. There are 40 permits without tax and 80 with 60 percent of taxes for the KIO; 15 each without tax and 30 each with 60 percent taxes for the TNLA and LDU. Those groups, however, have not taken the permits as no progress has been made in their peace talks, he added.
According to sources sought by Daily Eleven, the Road Transport Administration Department (Ka-Nya-Na) left 3,000 permits reserved for ‘car permits for peace’. No official has confirmed how many car permits have already been issued nor what brands of cars have been imported with the permits.
Meanwhile, some people have bought luxurious cars such as Rolls Royce and Bentley using permits allegedly given by the president to the ethnic armed groups. This would mean either that the government has lost at least Ks 200 billion in tax money for 1,000 cars imported with the ‘car permits for peace’ deal or that the ethnic armed groups did not receive the value for which the cars were given. The deal was reportedly made to benefit car brokers and some car permit dealers.
A Rolls-Royce with an original price of about US$ 500,000 (Ks 492 million) would be valued at about Ks 1.3 billion, including more than Ks 850 million in taxes. If the car is bought with peace permits, there is no needed to pay the taxes.
The permit is valued at roughly between Ks 50 million and Ks 150 million each, and the ethnic armed groups can sell their permits for at most Ks 150 million.
Currently, about 30 Rolls-Royce cars can be found in Myanmar, and nearly 20 Bentleys have been imported. They have been imported from the Myawady and Tachilek borders. According to Ka-Nya-Na, in response to questions from Eleven Media, most of the luxury cars imported with peace-for-car-permits are Rolls Royce, Bentley, Lamborghini, Lexus and BMW.
National League for Democracy chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi said during an interview with RFA on December 5 that she didn’t like the way the government has been issuing car permits to ethnic armed groups.
“I don’t like their plan. I don’t understand what the meaning is or what their intention is. Car permits have nothing to do with establishing a peace process. If the government wants to help the ethnics, they can help them in other ways. The car permits plan has so many difficulties,” Suu Kyi said.
The import of Rolls Royce cars on the basis of “peace permits” has continued on the Myanmar-Thai border because cars covered with cloth are not easily noticed, locals say.
The luxury cars, which are worth about half a million US dollars (Ks 490.5 million), were previously imported without covers. However, the government has recently suffered criticism for allegedly trying to reach ceasefire deals by offering armed ethnic groups “peace permits,” which offer exemptions from paying tax on car imports.
Yesterday, two Rolls Royce cars and one Lexus car were imported under cover through Myawady Township, according to local sources. So far, about 20 Rolls Royce cars have been imported tax-free under the peace permits.
MONEY IS ALL YOU NEED…….
Peace process in Burma/Myanmar means granting vehicle import licenses? according to the document signed by ABSDF chairman Ko Than Khel. ABSDF got 60 vehicle import licenses. Previous reports suggested Karen National Union got at least 120 vehicle import licenses.