No plan to restart mobile anti-smuggling teams
Even though cross-border illegal trade has soared without the enforcement units set up in 2012, the Ministry of Commerce has no plan to relaunch them, an official said.
MOBILE anti-smuggling enforcement teams will not be re-launched by the new government despite renewed efforts to crack down on illegal trade, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
Deputy permanent secretary U Khin Maung Lwin said better enforcement of the rule of law at trade points will be the strategy instead.
The mobile teams were created in order to crack down on smuggling in 2012. They were deployed along the route between Yangon and Myawady on the Thai border, and between Mandalay, Lashio and Muse on the Chinese border.
But the President’s Office shut the task force down on December 30, 2015, calling it a temporary measure.
U Maung Aung, an adviser to the Ministry of Commerce, told The Myanmar Times the mobile teams were a measure of the previous government and the new administration would take its own steps to curb illegal trade.
But in January, The Myanmar Times reported trade volume at the Chinese border in Shan State’s Muse township, which accounts for 70 percent of the country’s overland border trade, was down by US$241 million compared to the previous January – a decline that some attributed to increased smuggling because of the abolished mobile teams. Some traders said there were rumours that the mobile teams had been disbanded due to corruption.
“The Ministry of Commerce still has no plan to reorganise mobile teams at this time,” U Khin Maung Lwin said.
“The Ministry of Commerce has no authority to conduct arrests. The new government is applying the prescriptive law.”
The mobile teams may be redeployed, depending on the situation, at a later date, he said.
There are multiple illegal trade gates along the border and illicit trade is still thriving. U Khin Maung Lwin added that the illegal trade routes are being reported to the related regions’ and states’ governments.
“The Shan State government received a report on illegal paddy trading from Mine Yaung township. They are planning to organise a cooperating team with related authorities and investigate it,” he said.
The Ministry of Commerce reports directly to the region and state governments on matters related to illegal trade.
The illegal border gates appear where there is no rule of the law and no security, the commerce official said. Mine Lar, Kokang and Wa districts are in restricted areas and illegal trade proliferates there, U Khin Maung Lwin said, adding that illegal routes would decline if the political situation stablises.
“The illegal trade at unofficial gates will disappear after the 21stcentury Panglong Conference,” he said.