Govt to Reinstate Anti-Smuggling Checkpoints En-Route to Chinese and Thai Borders

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 27 January 2017

RANGOON — The government has announced it will set up two major checkpoints on the Chinese and Thai borders as part of its anti-smuggling plan.

The Ministry of National Planning and Finance will work with various government departments to implement the initiative. It includes checkpoints in Hsenwi Township, northern Shan State and in Mon State’s Kyaikhto Township, U Yan Naing Tun, director general of the Ministry of Commerce, told The Irrawaddy.

“A lot of trucks are going to the China and Thailand border areas everyday. We will check them at those two major points,” he said. “In the new government era, we will also work with other departments to check for smuggled goods,” U Yan Naing Tun said.

According to the proposed plan, the ministries of commerce, immigration, and agriculture and irrigation will work with the anti-narcotics team under the Ministry of Home Affairs, as well as the country’s anti-human trafficking team.

The same two checkpoints currently being proposed were opened under Burma’s military government in the 1990s, then closed in Jan. 2012, after U Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government took office.

U Thein Sein’s administration formed a multi-departmental task force of “mobile teams” to check for smuggled goods across the country.

The teams were deployed along border routes starting in 2012, with the police, customs officials and the Ministry of Commerce participating.

The team was dismantled in December 2015, before the new National League for Democracy-led government came to office.

Over the course of three years, the mobile teams seized more than 54 billion kyats (US$39.5 million) worth of smuggled goods, according to the commerce ministry.

The team focused in particular on the Muse border crossing with China in northern Shan State, and the Myawaddy border crossing with Thailand in Karen State, as well as the Thai border along Mon State. The items most frequently seized around the China border route were timber, jade and gems, frozen foods, electronic goods, live animals and mobile phone handsets.

Since Jan. 2016, the customs department, under the Ministry of National Planning and Finance has handled the seizure of smuggled goods.

The Burma-China border crossing at Muse is the biggest border trading zone of Burma’s 16 such stations, comprising more than half of the country’s total border trade volume. The Muse 105th mile trade zone trades at least $5 billion per year and recorded $3.3 billion in trade between April and mid-November 2016, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

The Myawaddy trading zone on the Thai border, which is the country’s second largest border trading point, traded $596 million from April to November 2016.