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Import business stops at Myawaddy trade gateway

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burmese customs authorities banned all goods entering from Thailand through the Myawaddy gateway on Wednesday morning, local traders said.

Villagers ride on three-wheel vehicles at a market area in Myawaddy, Burma, in this file photo. Normally, Thai and Burmese goods move daily over the Friendship Bridge linking the two countries. However, Burmese customs banned imports on Wednesday, the latest in a series of closures.  AFP PHOTO/Pornchai KITTIWONGSAKUL For now, even the unofficial trade routes through ferry gates along the Moei River are closed, even to small traders.

During many custom closings in the past, Thai-made textiles, foodstuffs and electrical appliances could continue to enter illegally by bribing local authorities. But authorities at the Border Trade and Security department located at the highway exit from Myawaddy Township are now refusing to accept bribes on all imported goods.

‘Now they banned even the goods and gifts imported by small scale traders’, a bus driver told Mizzima. ‘When imported items are found in passenger cars, they do not seize the things, but order the driver to go back and remove the goods. After that, the cars are allowed to leave the town’. Some officials at the checkpoint searched vehicles for up to 20 minutes, he said.

A local trader said, ‘We’ve heard that on the 13th of this month, other gates on this trade route will ban goods too’.

Before the closing of the Friendship Bridge, the trade volume of imported goods through Myawaddy was about 3 billion baht (US$ 100 million) per month.

The BBC Burmese Service reported on Tuesday, quoting a Thai officer at the Mae Sot Customs office, that the import volume had fallen to about $ 40 million per month.

Myawaddy is located east of the Dawna mountain range in Karen State. The on-and-off import bans and closing of the Friendship Bridge imposed by Burma have affected all traders and the local business community.

More than 1,500 motorcycle taxi drivers who transport goods on the route have been directly affected, starting in late July last year.

‘Our business is good when the bridge is open for trade. We can earn 10,000-15,000 kyat ($11 to 17) a day easily. After the bridge closed, we couldn’t earn enough to pay for the rent of our motorcycles’, a motorcycle taxi driver told Mizzima.

The taxi drivers have to pay owner’s fees at the rate of 1,500-2,000 kyat ($1.7-2.3) daily, and they bear expenses for fuel and repair costs from their own pockets.

Similarly, more than 50 brothels in Myawaddy have been affected by a drop in customers since traders can’t do business, said a member of the Hautharaw peace group, which operates a brothel.

Last Updated ( Friday, 11 March 2011 14:29 )  
The Kachin’s last stand
Since October this year, Burma has been in a state of civil war, with fighting between Burmese military and armed ethnic rebels. The ruling junta started a crackdown on these armed groups.

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