Maungdaw, 13 August 02: In a
recent spate of seizures large quantities of palm oil have been confiscated
from groceries and alleged ‘smugglers’ in Maungdaw
and Buthidaung townships in Rakhine
State in the western part of Burma, according to officials and local
According to our sources, on the “tips” received from Military Intelligence 18,
members of the Light Infantry Battalion 233 led by Captain MyintSoe raided grocery shops of Buthidaung
town and confiscated more than one thousand kilograms of palm oil on the 30th July. On the previous day, the Nasaka security forces in conjunction with Military
Intelligence 18, led by U Myint Lwin, confiscated about
three thousand two hundred kilograms of palm oil worth over Kyat two million
from the possession of Thin Tun, son of Maung Mra Tun
of Maungdaw Quarter One. Incidentally, the palm oil
that Thin Tun had stored in his house was owned by a Muslim businessman,
Hussein Zahed son of U Latu
from Kanyin-dan Quarter of the same town. Both the
men were arrested and have been held without trial since then.
The palm oil has been imported and marketed by the Myanmar Ubaing
Ltd (MUL), which is owned by the Burmese Army. The price of palm oil recently
shot up in Rangoon and Burma
proper to Kyat 1,900 per viss (1.75 kilo) due to
short supply, while at Maungdaw the price for the
same is only Kyat 1,200, since palm oil has been permitted to be imported from Bangladesh.
The difference in price accounts to at least Kyat 700 profit margin for each viss of the cooking oil. In Bangladesh,
the use of palm oil is less than soybean oil due to popular consciousness about
the hazards of the use of palm oil. But it is more used industrially and in
bakery, so that the price of palm oil is the lowest among cooking oils.
The supply of palm oil from Maungdaw at this stage
threatened the monopoly of the Army owned MUL, according to a leading importer,
and is sure to offer a chance of brisk business for the businessmen and traders
from RakhineState, which is not to the liking
of the ruling Burmese junta. Besides, many of the local residents also charge
that, the palm oil crisis is an artificial one created by the MUL for unethical
practice of sheer profiteering.
According to the Delhi based
Mizzima news on its Burmese edition, the crisis of edible palm oil compelled
the residents of Rangoon to queue
up in front of the MUL outlets starting from
in the small hours while the oil is sold starting from nine in the morning.
That also once every two or three days, it said. The price of palm oil at the
outlets is Kyat 500 each viss, but each person is
given only 0.1 to 0.25 viss.
Smuggling as cross-border traffic between Bangladesh
and Burma has
never been effectively checked even after rigorous anti-smuggling drives on
both sides of the Naafriver.
Considering this, the smuggling in palm oil will go up, says a retired customs
official in Maungdaw. UNB reported in leading dailies
today that in an inter-ministrial meeting yesterday
it was decided that, to check the soaring price and ensure smooth supply of
edible oil the government has decided to import palm oil worth 10 million US
dollars from Malaysia.
allows a legal trade to run with Bangladesh,
the seizure of palm oil from Bangladesh
in Maungdaw has raised many questions. One is, what
the Burmese security forces do with the ‘confiscated oil’ transport it to
Rangoon, or just share it among them, while the alleged ‘smugglers’ are put to
rot behind bars without fair trial, jeopardising the
livelihood and fate of the accused persons? Till now, no one has come up with
any of the answers. #