RANGOON — The government is to open new checkpoints along twelve known smuggling routes from border areas, after the disbandment of multi-departmental mobile task forces in December was blamed for an increase in overland smuggling.
Deputy Minister of Commerce Than Myint made the announcement on Wednesday in response to a question from National League for Democracy lawmaker Tun Tun Oo in the Lower House of Parliament, about how the government planned to tackle illegal border trade—which represents a vast loss of revenue for the government.
The deputy minister said that checkpoints would be installed even in areas far from the border—in Kachin, Shan and Karen states and Mandalay, Sagaing and Pegu divisions.
Multi-departmental mobile task forces were deployed along border routes from 2012, with the participation of the police, customs officials and the Ministry of Commerce.
Over three years, the roving teams seized more than 50 billion kyats (US$42 million) worth of smuggled goods, according to the commerce ministry. Particular focus was placed on the Muse border crossing with China in northern Shan State, and the Myawaddy border crossing with Thailand in Karen State.
However, these task forces were disbanded in December after coming under repeated violent attack from smugglers seeking retribution for arrests and confiscated goods. There has since been calls for the new government to adopt similar measures.
Yan Naing Tun, director general of Ministry of Commerce, told the Irrawaddy that the Ministry of National Planning and Finance’s Customs Department would be responsible for the checkpoints, where goods from passing vehicles and travelers will be checked.
Known smuggling routes to be targeted include, from Kachin State: Panwa-Chipwe-Myitkyina, Kanpilete-Waingmaw-Myitkyina, Laiza-Moemauk-Myitkyina, Lwije-Laiza-Myitkyina, Laiza-Sinbo-Hopin, Moenyin-Hpakant and Myitkytina-Shwebo-Mandalay.
From Shan State, targeted routes include Muse-Mandalay and Mongla-Tachileik-Kengtung-Taunggyi. The Myawady-Hpa-an route will be targeted in Karen State.