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Mon State motorbike drivers subjected to rigorous vehicle searches

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BY  Kon Hadee : IMNA’s field reporters have confirmed that the staff members at 4 major checkpoints in Mon State – the Thanphyuzayart to Mudon highway checkpoint, the Mudon to Moulmein highway checkpoint, the Moulmein to Kyaik-ma-yaw highway checkpoint, and the Moulmein to Pa-an highway checkpoint – have begun rigorous, unprecedented checks of motorbike drivers passing through the checkpoints.

Motorbike drivers and their vehicles are not usually singled out for checks, as motorbikes typically belong to local drivers and signal that their passengers are only using such small vehicles to travel short distances, and are therefore largely above suspicion. Residents informed INMA that the checks began in January and have been gradually increasing in intensity over the past two months.

“Before I thought they [the authorities] were just checking for the motorbikes without licenses, but they were not. When I was checked, they opened up my motorbike’s seat cover. What they were looking for, I did not know exactly and I did not dare to ask them [what they were looking for]” a recent traveler on the Thanphyuzayart to Mudon highway told IMNA.

According to a second eye witness and recent traveler on the Thanphyuzayart to Mudon highway, every single individual who passed through the checkpoint between Thanphyuzayart and Mudon Township was search. Reportedly, individuals who merited suspicion were questioned about their origins and travel destinations.

IMNA’s reporters also confirmed that staffing at the checkpoints has increased dramatically; up to 20 members of various Burmese government departments can now be found a each of the checkpoints.

“Officers from many different departments were checking the people, such as policemen, soldiers, and traffic police. All I know is that they are just checking the people who are traveling on motorbikes, they are not checking the passengers who are traveling in trucks,” said a Moulmein resident.

This source also reported to IMNA that the checkpoints have been continuing their vehicle searches after sundown, and unusual development as most checkpoints shut down at night.

A Thanphyuzayart resident, who asked that his exact location be concealed, reported to IMNA that while most travelers are unsure of the reasoning behind the increased checkpoint strictures, his village headman had learned from the Thanphyuzayart Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC) that government authorities are responding to rumors of an impending bombing in Mon State.

Other sources that IMNA spoke to dismissed claims of bomb scares, and instead insisted that checkpoint authorities are merely using the searches as a means of checking motorbike drivers for documents or evidence of belonging to a Mon State political organization, such as the Mon Relief and Development Council (MRDC), or the New Mon State Party (NMSP); one source claimed that checkpoint authorities are intending to single these group members out for particularly intense scrutiny.

“Even though the authorities gave the reason [for the checkpoints] that they are checking for a bomber, I think, they [the authorities] are not. They just want to disturb of the political groups who are traveling with motorbikes,” a political observer from Mudon township told IMNA.

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