Officials Seize $20m in Smuggled Goods Last Year

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 22 April 2015

RANGOON — A government task force created to tackle the smuggling of goods said it made record seizures in the last fiscal year, confiscating various goods across Burma’s borderlands valued at more than 21 billion kyats (US$19.7 million).

The yearly haul is worth more than double the value of seizures the previous year, which topped off at $9.5 million.

From April 2014 to May 2015, the task force has handled 3,216 cases of smuggling at various border and seaport checkpoints, according to the team’s Deputy Director General Yan Naing Tun.

Illegal timber topped the list of smuggled goods, Yan Naing Tun said, with more than 300 cases bringing in a total of 15 tons valued at $1.9 million. A nationwide ban on all raw timber exports went into effect on April 1, 2014, making all such sales illegal.

Jade came in a close second as the team seized a total of 29 lots worth $1.2 million, the official said.

Other seized goods included chemicals likely used for drug production, mobile phone handsets, motorized vehicles, alcoholic beverages, tobacco, textiles, live animals and unapproved food products being shipped from neighboring China and Thailand.

The anti-smuggling task force is a government-backed body comprising members of the Ministry of Commerce, Customs Department, Myanmar Police Force, media and local authorities.

The 600-strong team operates mobile teams along Burma’s borders with China and Thailand, as well as all international air and seaports. Since it was established in late 2012, more than $33 million worth of illegal goods have been seized.

The task force has increased its presence along the Burma-China border, particularly near the Muse-Jiego border crossing, where illegal trade of high-value goods remains rampant. Muse is the largest of Burma’s 15 border checkpoints, and serves as the country’s main gateway to China, with hundreds of trucks passing each way daily to deliver goods.

Than Win, deputy director of the Ministry of Commerce, said the teams have been very effective at curbing illicit trade by setting up surprise checkpoints along major routes.

“We’ve seized most of these goods along the Burma-China border routes, mainly jade and various kinds of timber,” he told The Irrawaddy. Some of the goods—such as unapproved foodstuffs—are destroyed, while others—such as timber and gems—are shipped to government ministries, he said.

Than Win said that the amount of smuggled goods has increased proportionally to the rise in trade volume over the past few years. Ministry figures indicate that the total sea trade reached $21.4 million, while cross border trade hit $6.6 million during the last fiscal year—a 12.4 percent increase in total trade over the previous year.