Anti-Smuggling Teams Abolished: Commerce Ministry

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 31 December 2015

RANGOON — The government’s mobile task force teams, which aimed to clamp down on the country’s thriving illegal border trade, have been abolished, the Ministry of Commerce announced on Wednesday.

“All teams will stop, starting from today,” Than Win, the director of the Ministry of Commerce, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday. The directive was signed by Commerce Minister Win Myint on Dec. 30.

Since late 2012, the cross-departmental teams, including representatives of the commerce ministry, customs and police, have worked to intercept illegal overland trade, primarily in Shan State’s Muse on the border with China and in Myawaddy, Karen State, on the Thai-Burma border.

Over the past three years, the roving mobile teams have seized more than 50 billion kyats (US$38.2 million) worth of smuggled goods in border areas, according to the commerce ministry.

As well as operating in major towns along the country’s shared borders with China and Thailand, the teams also monitored major seaports and airports.

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

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.

Representatives from the Ministry of Commerce will hold a press conference in Naypyidaw in early January to elaborate on Wednesday’s decision.