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Crackdown on smuggled goods between Myawaddy-Rangoon

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Since Burma closed the Burmese-Thai Friendship Bridge in Myawaddy, the smuggling of goods by small traders and organized crime has skyrocketed along the Myawaddy-Mawlamyine-Rangoon highway. Recently, the authorities have tightened inspections at checkpoints and arrested small-scale smugglers and levied fines.

Smuggled items included cars, motorcycles, spare parts, seasoning powder (MSG), beer, soft drinks, fish paste, clothes, food items, milk and other commodity goods.

The Burmese government closed the Mae Sot-Myawaddy Friendship Bridge, a key Thai-Burmese trade route, in July 2010, but smuggled contraband continues to cross over by ferryboats on the Moei River.

The contraband goods are seized at checkpoints along the Rangoon-Kyaikto highway and near Thaton and Mawlamyine. Inspection teams are led by the army and joined by township officials and immigration and police officers.

One smuggler on the Myawaddy-Mawlamyine highway told Mizzima, “We can negotiate with the search teams if the items are carried by passenger cars with many passengers, who have to pay bribes to get their items returned. Our car was seized at the Thaton checkpoint and goods worth about 8 million kyat (US$ 9,962) were seized by search teams in mufti.”
Smugglers complain that small and medium-scale traders are sometimes arrested, but people who smuggle contraband goods by 10-wheel trucks with permission issued by the Southeast Command Headquarters are not arrested. Sometimes armed groups stop cars and ask for money, smugglers said. Observers said some passenger buses are exclusively carrying contraband goods.

A regular smuggler said big trucks have to pay about 3 million kyat (US$ 3,736) to the Regional Command Headquarters for every consignment of goods valued at around 100 million kyat (US$ 124,533).

“The small-scale traders pay bribes when they are intercepted at checkpoints. But we pay them on a regular basis before smuggling our contraband goods. Sometimes our trucks are also seized. At that time, the responsible people have to negotiate with these checkpoint officials to get back our goods and truck,” he told Mizzima.

Eleven Media Group online edition reported on July 3 that an official from the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) said that many items banned since 1994 would again be allowed to be imported into the country.

“But liquor and cigarette will not be included in this list. They might be included later. MSG and foodstuffs will certainly be officially allowed to be imported to the country again,” said the official.

The trade value in 2009 for the Myawaddy-Mae Sot border trade was US$ 724 million; last year it increased by almost 27 per cent, according to official statistics.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 06 July 2011 14:02 )  

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