No plan to restart mo­bile anti-smug­gling teams

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - – Trans­la­tion by San Layy CHAN MYA HTWE chan­myahtwe@mm­times.com

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.

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