$30m in Black Market Goods Seized Since 2012: Commerce Ministry

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 22 September 2015

RANGOON — Roving anti-smuggling teams have seized more than 50 billion kyats (US$30 million) worth of smuggled goods in border areas over the last three years, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

Since late 2012, the cross-departmental mobile teams have intercepted a number of black market shipments, primarily in Muse on the border of China’s Yunnan province and the Karen town of Myawaddy on the Thai border.

Minister of Commerce Win Myint told a meeting of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) earlier this month that officials had stopped the unlawful export of jade, timber, unlicensed automobiles, livestock and electronic goods.

Formed as a collaborative effort between the country’s police force, Customs Department and the Ministry of Commerce, the anti-smuggling teams had been subjected to attacks and ambushes by smuggling gangs seeking retribution for confiscated goods, according to Commerce Ministry director-general Nyunt Aung.

“They’ve ambushed team members in some of the most severe cases we’ve seen,” he said.

Than Win, a ministry director, said that the teams had intercepted more than 500 trucks carrying illegal logs since the operation began, seizing timber worth at least 9 billion kyats (US$6.9 billion) worth of timber over the three year period.

“Most these logs were seized at the Chinese border,” he said, adding that a Commerce Ministry employee was killed during one altercation with smugglers in the area. “Some others were seriously injured. These traders don’t like what we are doing.”

According to figures from the ministry, 57 tonnes of jade worth 5 billion kyats had been seized by the taskforce, along with vehicles worth 4 billion kyats.

Win Myint told The Irrawaddy that black market transactions and the importation of untaxed consumer goods was a lingering problem in Burma.

“Comparing the trade figures of our trade partners, ours are smaller,” he said. “Ours are [significantly] smaller than China and Thailand’s. It is clear we don’t have accurate figures.”

China accounted for around 87 percent of border trade in the last fiscal year, followed by Thailand at 12 percent, according to the Commerce Ministry.