Thursday, August 6, 2009

USDA Card More Useful Than National ID When Traveling

Maungdaw (Narinjara): An USDA card is more useful than national ID cards when traveling around Arakan State, and many youths in Arakan State have joined the USDA in order to get a membership card, said one student from Maungdaw.

"In Maungdaw Township, to get a national ID card is very difficult for township people. More than 10,000 kyat has to be payed out as bribes for a national ID card, but it is no guarantee that you'll get the ID card in time. So many youths and students join the USDA for the organization's member card," she said.

In Arakan State, authorities do not allow a person to travel without a national ID card. Every traveler needs to show their identification to authorities when buying ferries and bus tickets.

There are also many checkpoints stationed along major roads around Arakan State and people can be arrested if they are unable to show their national ID cards whenever requested by the authorities.

"The national ID card is very useful in our country, but now the card is not as powerful as the USDA membership cards. In our state, anyone can travel anywhere with a USDA card," the student added.

Buthidaung and Maungdaw Township are more restrictive of travel than other places in Arakan, and most people are traveling with USDA cards.

A teacher from Maungdaw said, "If anyone has a USDA card, they can more easily get a national ID card. The immigration department issues the national ID cards to those people who are members of the USDA. Without the USDA card, a person can not apply for government jobs in Burma."

Many students at the Maungdaw government high school have joined the USDA for these benefits rather than for political reasons. However, the government still prohibits Muslim students from joining the USDA.

The USDA, or Union Solidarity and Development Association, is an organization backed by the Burmese military government and is intended to be transformed into a political party whenever the government needs it.

According to the organization, there are over twenty four million members in the USDA throughout Burma.

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