Traders who had started going to Namphalong and Tamu markets in Myanmar after several weeks of sealing off of the international border, are not happy with the changed situation. Many of them may not be going further to bring foreign goods for sale at various towns in the north eastern States.
The traders and the community leaders at Moreh, the border town, had sealed off the international border following the grisly murder of two traders - S. Singh and D. Singh from Uttar Pradesh and Mumbai respectively - on February 11 by unknown persons. Though they were believed to have been kidnapped from Tamu town, about 30 km from the international border on Fberuary 11, their decomposed and mutilated bodies were found near a tribal village some weeks later.
When the Myanmarese Government did nothing to track down the killers, the traders and community leaders at Moreh had sealed off the international border and did not permit anyone to cross the international gate. Following a meeting among the officials of Manipur and Myanmar, the restriction was lifted from Sunday. The Indian traders had started rushing to Namphalong and Tamu to fetch foreign goods.
However, talking to The Hindu, some of the traders said that there is a changed situation and a fear psychosis among Indians who venture into Myanmar. They feel that any one of them could be murdered any time and the criminals would never be accounted for. The killers of the two Indian traders have not been arrested so far and the fear is that they will never be booked. In other words, these criminals and some potential criminals may be tempted to commit more crimes as they know that they will never be brought to justice.
The traders said that since they feel quite unsafe, many of them are thinking of not sticking out their necks. In any case, the legalised border trade had undergone a radical change. The traditional trade between the two countries was legalised after much official red tapism on May 12, 1995. The country’s exchequer had not gained much in the sense that the underworld business is still flourishing and the taxes imposed on the common items are negligible.
Much later, the Myanmarese government had constructed a shopping complex at Namphalong across the international gate. It means that the days of the business monopoly by the south Indians, collectively known at Moreh as Tamils, came to an end. In the beginning, they bought all foreign goods in bulk and sold them to the Indian traders at huge profit later. Since the Indian traders are going straight to Namphalong, these Tamils were left holding the empty sacks. Representatives of the Tamil Sangam in Moreh told The Hindu that most of the traders had left Moreh to start business elsewhere. The growing sense of insecurity among the traders who have been going inside Myanmar to fetch goods is the last nail in the coffin.
Indications are that Champhai in Mizoram is fast emerging as the alternative trade centre of the two countries. Besides, the traders also say that there are over “15 check posts” between Imphal and Moreh which has a distance of 110 km. They have to grease many palms in these check posts with the result that they do not get much profit from the sale of the foreign goods brought to Manipur and other NE States.
There are no banking and foreign exchange facilities at Moreh. As criminals of many hues rule the roost there, the traders do not feel safe to carry huge amounts of money needed for trade matters.