Mon State Govt Probes Looting of Smuggled Goods

By Hintharnee 7 July 2017

MOULMEIN, Mon State — The looting of smuggled goods that staff at an inspection gate in Mon State were destroying has sparked a state government investigation.

Dozens of people came to loot the contraband—mainly food, soft drinks and alcohol—at Mayanchaung inspection gate in Kyaikto Township on June 29 despite the presence of government officials.

Photos of looters grabbing goods, which were imported illegally, and fleeing on motorbikes and in cars were shared on social media. The Mon State government formed a body on Thursday to investigate the incident, according to U Wunna Kyaw, the state minister for planning, finance and immigration.

“We’re investigating. But we can’t give any details now,” said U Wunna Kyaw. The investigation will take about a week, he added.

Officials at the inspection gate also declined to speak about the investigation process.

U Aung Kyaw Thu, a Mon State lawmaker, complained that the inspection gate is a burden on travelers and not a good source of taxes for the state government, as there are two roads, which people can use to bypass the gate.

“The gate has been there since the time of the military government. While it hampers the flow of commodities, it only benefits the staff assigned there, and contributes nothing to taxation,” said U Aung Kyaw Thu.

The lawmaker also criticized the state government’s destruction of smuggled goods. “It is a lose-lose situation,” he said.

There have been cases of staff members bribing their superiors to be assigned to the inspection gate, where they can receive payoffs from smugglers, the lawmaker claimed.

The inspection gate, which is on the Yangon-Moulmein road, was opened in 2003 and closed in 2012 following complaints from locals and the state’s chamber of commerce about the prevalence of illicit contraband.

After five years of closure, it was opened on March 1 this year as part of a state government plan to control the movement of smuggled goods.

The gate has 79 staff from 11 departments and agencies, including the consumer protection department of the commerce ministry; police; traffic police; immigration and population department; road transportation administration department; and agricultural and fisheries departments.  They make 24-hour checks on people and vehicles that cross the gate.

From March 1 to the first week of July, smuggled goods worth 2.4 billion kyats were seized at the gate, according to statistics from Mon State’s planning, finance and immigration ministry.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.