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MYANMAR’S Customs Department will implement short- and long-term measures to combat illegal trade along and within the country’s overland borders, Commerce Minister U Than Myint told lawmakers at an Amyotha Hluttaw session yesterday.
He was responding to a question from MP U Tun Tun Oo (NLD; Mandalay 2), who asked whether the government had plans to combat illicit imports and exports following the disbandment of anti-smuggling “mobile teams” late last year.
In terms of long-term procedures, adoption of a containerisation system would allow customs authorities to better root out illegal imports and exports, he said.
Implementation of trans-national trade protocols such as the Mekong-region Cross Border Transport Agreement and ASEAN Customs Transit System will further improve controls on imports and exports.
Additional measures include the systematic construction of more border-area customs facilities, staff housing and vehicle inspection posts, as well as installation of more X-ray screening devices, U Than Myint said, adding that supplementary budget requests would be made for the department’s expanded footprint.
The Union minister told lawmakers that interim short-term initiatives would also be launched, such as stepped-up surprise inspections of vehicles plying several common trade routes, including Muse-Mandalay, Kan Pike Tee-Myitkyina and Myawady-Yangon.
Per President U Htin Kyaw’s instruction, the Customs Department will cooperate with five ministries and one state government to coordinate its crackdown on illegal trade, U Than Myint said.
Speaking of checks being made beyond official border crossings, U Than Myint said, “Inspections are now being performed at Kachin State, Myitkyina township’s Bala Min Htin Bridge. Others are also being made in Shan State, Kayin State and Bago Region, and [customs officers are] also arranging to perform these in Sagaing Region and Tanintharyi Region.”
Illicit trading has long thrived between Myanmar and its neighbours, from outbound teak and opium to unlicensed cigarette importation.
Life got a little easier this week for overstretched customs enforcement officers as the government published a list removing 267 items from a roster of goods requiring permits to import. The easing on those items will go into effect September 1.