Border Trade Cards to Boost Business, Cut Graft

By The Irrawaddy 9 November 2012

Businessmen in Myawaddy, Karen State, opposite Mae Sot in western Thailand, will soon be issued with border trade permission cards to conduct work legally even if they do not have a company license, according to a Burmese government official.

Yan Naing Tun, the director of Border Trade Department in Myawaddy, made the announcement after a meeting with the Thai Ministry of Commerce in Tak Province regarding boosting bilateral trade.

“We are going to produce permission cards for those who cannot set up company licenses to let them trade freely,” he told journalists on Thursday.

The cards will be shown at checkpoint gates to allow local businessmen to import Thai goods and distribute them to other parts of Burma. Until now, those without a company license would have to bribe an unscrupulous customs official.

Many border traders in Myawaddy who usually have to pay extra “tea money” to earn a living have welcomed the move. “Border traders will not have to stay under control of big companies anymore,” said local entrepreneur Yan Naing Tun.

Border traders say that the cards will boost trade and make prices more competitive. In the past, those working outside a company would often have goods confiscated at checkpoints if they could not afford a bribe or the official was unwilling to accept one. Sometimes registered companies would secretly transport goods on behalf of casual traders in exchange for a fee.

“We will only pay taxes to the Border Trade Department and then nothing goes to anyone else,” Myawaddy businesswoman Sein Aye told The Irrawaddy. “We do not have to be afraid about the authorities seizing our belongings. Let those who made this decision have a long life!”

Burma has been undergoing tentative political reforms over the course of the last year yet local people in Myawaddy say that this is the first time that they have felt any benefits. Border authorities in India produce similar permission cards which allow casual traders to conduct business freely across in Burma’s Tamu Township in Chin State.

Myawaddy Town is the second largest border trading zone in Burma after Muse by the Chinese border in Shan State. Burmese border traders in Myawaddy import three billion baht (US $3.5 million) worth of goods every month, according to the Thai Ministry of Commerce in Tak Province.