In order to crack down on illegal trading, the current government has launched the Yaypu Border Inspection Camp which seized roughly K2266 million worth of jade and timber within the first two months of its operation, according to information provided by the Camp.
Major illegal products coming into Myanmar involve household products as well as food, and electrical products. Illegal products exported out of Myanmar include jade, timber, and forestry products which were primarily seized, said Yaypu Border Inspection Camp leader U Thet Tun Aung.
“We’ve learnt that the products with high values were timber, and jade chunks that were recently seized [within the nation]. We’ve appraised the following items which is estimated it to be worth K350 million. There are natural resources, teak, and forestry products that are being carried out, as well as animal products such as beef. We have prevented this,” he said.
Yaypu is located near the 105 trade point in Muse township, Shan State. The Yaypu Border Inspection Camp opened in January 2017, is headed by the Ministry of Planning and Finance and operations began on January 16. There were 22 cases by the end of January and seizures were estimated to be worth more than K533 million.
In February, exported illegal goods and imported foodstuffs seized were estimated to be worth more than K721 million in a total of 30 cases.
The rate of illegal trading has increased, with 62 cases recorded in March. From March 1 to March 24, the value of seized goods amounted to more than K1010 million, according to official statistics.
U Thet Tun Aung, who is also the deputy director of Customs Department, said that among the things which had been seized by their department, there were things that his department had to destroy, auction and nationalise. For natural resources seized, the items have been transferred to the relevant ministry.
He said that when conducting the checking process, they encountered difficulties with checking fruit-carrying trucks.
“When checking fruit-carrying trucks, fruits are loaded and then unloaded again …damage occur[s] and it causes loss in trading fruits. So, we have to check depending on the tip-off,” he said.
After opening the Yaypu checkpoint to deal with illegal activities, Union Planning and Finance Minister U Kyaw Win said the checking staff will receive 50 percent of the value of seizures as a bonus, as a measure to eradicate corruption.
However, the overall value of seized goods has not been finalised. There were imported food products which needed to be destroyed as they were not suitable for consumption. Cars without license plates would be seized as government property, and there would be fines and penalties for the rest of the vehicles. Thus, the final value of the confiscated commodities would be confirmed only after the auction, U Thet Tun Aung said.
“We will know the price of jade only after the mineral auctions, and the same [applies] for timber as well. The government will award a 50pc bonus after auctions are done, and prices are fixed. But the officers and staffs at our Customs Department do not care about bonuses.
“What we care is to prevent our precious gems and minerals from getting smuggled out of the country, and to ensure that the imported goods from other countries meet the quality standards. We do not think about getting bonuses at all. Our sole focus is to fulfil our duties efficiently,” he added.
The government has been stepping up efforts to clamp down on all kinds of illegal trade at various borders.
In January, officials have seized some 855 tonnes of timber, valued about K3600 million, from illegal timber traders in Yangon over a period of nine days.
In February, the Myanmar Times reported that wildlife authorities and anti-smuggling officers are stepping up efforts to clamp down on the illegal trade of wild animals through the Mandalay-Muse road by intensifying inspections at checkpoints along the busy route.
The illegal export of organs and parts of wild animals has recently been reported to be increasing, along with the illegal trade of drugs, arms and human trafficking, according to the Mandalay Department of Forestry.
– Translation by Kyaw Soe Htet, Khine Thazin Han, Win Taw Thar, and Swe Zin Moe