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Moreh,   Nov,  5:  Extortion  in the form  of illegal taxes
collected   both  by  the  Kuki  militants  and  government
agencies  has  become a  major  source of  concern  for the
traders in Moreh.

The  Morning Bazaar,  the town's main market,  located near
the border gate number 2, has been operating for many years
while  the  Namphalong market  in  Myanmar just  across the
border started functioning in April this year. The distance
between  the two markets  is hardly 300  meters.  But,  the
prosperous  Namphalong market is  free of militants threat.

Indian traders here find the Namphalong market much cheaper
than  the Morning Bazaar,  where prices of goods are higher
because of the illegal taxes imposed by the Kuki militants.

The  situation  has  been  made  worse  by  the  government
agencies,   who also  collect their  dues from  the market.

Goods  sold  in the  Morning Bazaar  are mostly  of foreign
origin  and do not figure in the list of Indo-Myanmar trade
agreement.   Nearly 4,000 people of  the state benefit from
this  trade and  it also  solves unemployment  problem to a
great extent.

According to the traders, the difference in prices of goods
between  Morning Bazaar  and Namphalong  market ranges from
Rs.  10 to Rs.  15 per item.  Businessmen at Morning Bazaar
are  forced to sell goods at high prices to pay the various
rebel groups.

This has resulted in huge losses for the country as trading
has  shifting to  Namphalong since  April,  "Kuki militants
collect  Rs.  10,000 from each shopkeeper in Morning Bazaar
every  year  as  annual  tax  besides  the  ragular monthly
collection."  says a trader.  There are more than 100 shops
in the market.  Shopkeepers pay nearly Rs.  1,500 per month
to  various groups  ranging from  Kuki militants  to Indian
Customs and Police officials.

At  Namphalong  Bazaar,   which  was  recently  gutted,   a
shop-keeper  has to pay only a  monthly rent of 70 Kyats to
the Myanmarese authorities.

The  Morning  Bazaar  commanded  brisk  business  when  the
Myanmarese  trading centre  was located  at Tamu  town.  An
Indian  trader and to spent Rs.  32 as Indian police's gate
pass,   Rs.  10 to the  Myanmarese immigration officials as
entry fee and Rs. 20 as fare.

Nearly  1,500 people  cross the  border every  day from the
Indian side.  "Namphalong has given gain to traders in fare
component  and  low prices  of  goods," says  Mr Loitongbam
Imobi  Singh of Meitei Council,  Moreh (MCM).  But,  it has
affected the trading at Morning Bazaar.

Mr Imobi said Manipuris wanted restoration of normal border
trade.   The border has been  sealed since October 12 after
the   burning  of  the  Namphalong  market.   He  said  his
organization  was ready  to contribute Rs.   50,000 for the
reconstruction of the Myanmarese market.

A Tamil trader, however, said the market should be built at
least one kilometre away from the present site.  He said it
would  enable the Myanmarese  authorities to provide proper
security to the complex.

The  superintendent  of  police,  Chandel,  Mr.  Manglemjao
Singh,   said  the situation  would be  normal soon  as his
meeting  with the Myanmarese authorities had been fruitful.
(From   Oinam  Sunil,   Nov,    6th  1997  the  Telegraph.)

News  and  Information Bureau,   All Burma  Students League

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