By LAWI WENG
The Irrawaddy News
The latest perk for Burma’s senior military officials is a Toyota Land Cruiser, according to a source close to the military government.
"Nowadays the talk in the army is the news that all high ranking military officers above major general have permission to buy Land Cruisers," the source told The Irrawaddy.
Low-ranking officials are unhappy about the news, said the source, griping that the vehicles could end up being sold on the black market.
"The permit allows buying a vehicle for 140,000,000 kyat (US $112,450). But a vehicle that’s bought could be sold on the black market for 500,000,000 kyat ($401,606)," according to the source. The price for a 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser in the United States is around $65,000.
About 50 high ranking officers above major general work in the Ministry of Defense.
Abuse of power and corruption are common in the military government. According to the Global Corruption Report 2008, recently released by Transparency International, Burma is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, ranking just ahead of Somalia and tied with Iraq at the second-lowest ranking.
Meanwhile, about 1,000 vehicles that were seized in southern Burma for not having legal registration papers were auctioned this week by Southeast Command in Moulmein, according to a source with the Mon ceasefire group.
Sources at the New Mon State Party said the vehicles, seized in the past few years, have been re-registered with new titles and licenses. The number of vehicles to be sold is not known. In the past, such vehicles were usually sold to businessmen favored by the regime.
The source said about 50 vehicles were sold or traded last week at the Southeast Command in Moulmein.
A Toyota Mighty 8 Hilux brought from 10,000,000 kyat ($8,032) to 30,000,000 kyats ($ 24,096), depending on the model’s year.
Most vehicles were seized from local residents or members of the Mon ceasefire group. In 2003, the regime passed a law allowing seizure of vehicles without legal registration papers and imprisonment of the owner for up to three years.