(Paletwa 29th October, 2019)
Villagers from Paletwa Township have been restricted under a directive initiated by the Township Municipal Department which restricts the use of private boats to act as ferries for travelling along the Kaladan River. The prohibition Order number 28/2019 was issued on October 8th 2019 and prohibits the use of locally owned, small-engine boats to be used as a ferry:
“Within the municipal ferry licensed area, the private boat owners must not collect any fare from passengers, and no one shall hire the private owned boat with money without prior permission from Paletwa Township Municipal Department. Anyone who violates shall be punished when the investigations show such violation. The boat of violating party shall be confiscated,” said one source who spoke to CHRO.
The areas which are included in the order are Sin let Wa, Hta Rai and Taung Pio in Paletwa, along the Kaladan River. In the aftermath of the order publication, local people travelling with private boats which carry more than three people are risking a fine of 5000 MMK (Approx. 3 USD) per head. The Paletwa Township Municipal Department auction the ferry licenses from Paletwa to Tuang Pio, and from Taung Pio to Thru Ai which have reached as high as 370 lakhs (370 million) and 140 lakhs (14 million) for the two stretches of river. The ferry fares from Paletwa to Taung Pio and from Taung Pio to Hta Rai are 3000 MMK each.
A source who agreed to speak to CHRO stated that, “In Paletwa, we mostly use the water way for our transportation in Paletwa, we use a Honda-boat as a taxi is used in Yangon. We rely on it for emergency cases and family trip. We are troubled because the Municipal order prohibits to use a private boat to travel. People have losses especially in Miza and upper region because Thru Ai Licensed Boat Team has been collecting fines from those who travel with more than three people. Now the municipal prohibits private boat, and it is getting worse. What I want to say is that it is OK that the licensed boat can take ferry as much as they can, but there is no such order that people can only use a bus in Yangon.”
Ferries that have been caught transporting villagers along the river have had their National Registration Cards (NRC) confiscated and then had to redeem them in the Municipal office at a later date. It is alleged also that some of the private boat owners were physically beaten by the licensed boat owners. In one such case, it is reported that on the 26th October 2019, that a licensed boat owner, U Kyaw Moe physically attacked U Aung Than, a private owner who was found to be carrying eight people as he was checked at Hta Rai Ai check point. During the incident the NRC cards of all the boat passengers were also confiscated. One person interviewed by CHRO stated:
“The Hta Rai Ai Boat Line Team fines 5000.00 MMK per head to those who pass the check point carrying more than three persons. Some of their NRCs were confiscated. Then, they were again checked at the check point between Nuu Bu and Taung Pio saying that Hta Rai Ai Check Point Team asked us to do so”.
According to sources, the boats used by family members are also forced to pay and even the boats carrying patients going hospital have to pay, “They threaten them by saying ‘it is OK not to pay’, but afterwards they will make a call and you will not escape, they will know when you arrive at the Paletwa check point. So, do only the licensed boat line owners own the Kaladan River? And why don’t we own the river, can’t we use the river?”
On 24th November, 2019 six school teachers departed from Miza to Paletwa Town to attend a training with a boat owned by U Khin Soe, the headmaster of the Miza primary school. When they were stopped at the Hta
Rai Ai check point along the way and were asked to pay, they refused. Afterwards, U Khin Soe’s staff card was confiscated and to date, he has not recieved it back. One interlocuter explained his frustration at the order:
“For example, when about ten people want to travel to attend the religious festivals, it should not be prohibited to use private Honda boat. According to the order, the passengers should not exceed three on a single boat except in social events. Actually, some family exceeds five persons, so the situation is like family census is needed to show them as proof. For us, we must go with our own boat if my family want to travel, but my family member is made up of seven people. If we have our own boat, then why should we still borrow other’s boat? The situation is like this”.
Regarding the difficulties of private boat owners, he added, “There are many cases such as NRC confiscation and physical attack. So, these cases will no longer be accepted. I think there will be conflicts exploded regarding with these cases”.