Travellers face delays and extortion at checkpoints

Jan 25, 2008 (DVB), People travelling on Burmese highways have been stopped and searched or forced to pay money to officials at checkpoints being operated as part of increased security measures.

Armed government troops have been deployed to checkpoints on the highway linking Rangoon and Bassein, Irrawaddy division, and are carrying out identity checks and vehicle searches and arresting anyone they find suspicious.

A Rangoon resident who recently travelled to Bassein said that bus passengers had to leave their bus and pass the checkpoint on foot.

"The checkpoints are being guarded by the army, police and several other government officials, and all the passengers have to get off the buses and walk past them holding their identity cards," the resident said.

"They were also searching people's luggage and comparing people's photos with pictures from a list of people wanted by the police."

The resident said that people travelling with their identity guarantee document but not their actual card were taken into custody.

In Karen state, officials were extorting 1000 to 2000 kyat from people travelling on the highway between Myawaddy and Pha-an, the Karen capital.

A merchant from Myawaddy said that government officials, including from the police and immigration, were at each checkpoint along the highway.

"They are searching everyone thoroughly at the checkpoints and we have to spend about 1000 or 2000 kyat at each checkpoint paying them the money they demand," the merchant said.

"They are also seizing drinks and monosodium glutamate from people."

Reporting by Htet Yazar

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