Skip to main content
October 3, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 158
Observers in Raca


by Nenad Stefanovic

Add to that the fact that the army is doing its job along the border and you can say that Belgrade is playing hardball. For example, Radio Bajina Basta reported on Wednesday that the army border guards had stopped a 30 ton fuel tanker from crossing into the Bosnian Serb Republic near Zaovina. The Novi Sad-registered tanker was stopped and taken to army headquarters in Bajina Basta by a border patrol. The radio added that another two tankers loaded with fuel had been impounded in the same area last week.

``This is worse than a real border,'' a truck driver who drove a load of meat to Knin recently said. He spent hours in line waiting to cross the Drina to get back into Serbia. ``There are no observers on a real border and not only have we allowed the closing of the border to our brethren across the river, but we have also brought these guys in to control us. It's serious enough without them. I can just imagine how it's going to be when the observers go on 24 hour duty. I went to Knin recently and I had to wait two days for the documents and everything. The meat almost spoiled. Some drivers waited for three or four days. They stopped my director from taking across some petrol in a canister when he went to Krajina on a business trip. He had to pay six DEM per liter over there. We Serbs always have to do something original at any price. The Muslims and Croats would never do this to their own people.''

The busy crossing at Sremska Raca is used by humanitarian convoys to cross into Bosnian Serb territory and drive through the Posavina corridor to Krajina. As at all other border crossings, Swedish General Bo Pelnas' team is there working with local police and customs officers. The unusually pleasant policemen allow journalists to photograph everything as long as they don't take pictures of the policemen. They stop every vehicle for routine document checks. Then the customs officers open car boots and, just a step or two behind them, the plainclothesed observers discretely glance over their shoulders. They take some notes.

Anyone with a canister of fuel in their vehicle is told to turn back and pour it into their fuel tank or go on their way without it. Arguing and pleading does no good, even when the fuel is obviously not being smuggled. The customs officers are adamant even when the humanitarian workers (mostly Scandinavians) get out of the blazing sun to write reports which will go to their bases in Ruma and Banja Koviljaca to be turned into daily reports.

Tools are used for the checks. Customs officers in Raca sometimes use a shovel with a mirror attached to it to look under vehicles. If they are checking trucks full of cargo they use ladders. They patiently wait for the driver to remove the canopy and then climb onto the ladder to take a look at the load before their humanitarian co-workers.

Both groups work mostly in silence. Comments, sometimes accompanied by cusses, come from drivers waiting to go through and marking time with beers and folk music in the restaurant at the crossing. When they see the shovel and mirror they say: ``Fuck Kertes (Yugoslav federal customs chief).''

© Copyright VREME NDA (1991-2001), all rights reserved.