Narinjara news

Tactics change, smuggling goes on

6 October 2002:  Smuggling syndicates on both sides of the Burma  Bangladesh border have recently scaled up their operations along the border, a source in the law enforcement agency in Western Burma told Narinjara on condition of anonymity.

The alleged cross-border traffickers have been adopting newer ways to trick the law enforcement agencies on both sides of the Naaf River, he said.  Consignments of illegal traffic including narcotics are now shuttled through different border routes by land or by sea.

When asked the source said that at present there is no bilateral cooperation between Burma and Bangladesh on suppression of illegal smuggling along the common porous border.

In mid-September the air in the south-eastern Bangladeshi border town of Teknaf was ripe with a rumour of a large transhipment of illegal weapons through the sea.  The law enforcement agencies in the area were put on red alert for at least two weeks.  But the long wait proved to be a hoax.

Meanwhile, it is now realized that a large consignment of narcotic drugs, not weapons, was delivered by sea route into the Bangladeshi seaport of Chittagong, far north from Teknaf  the smugglers used the ‘rumour’ to divert the attention of the law enforcement agencies including the navy, border security forces and coast guards on both sides of the border!  The red alert actually helped for the safe passage of the consignment!

While big syndicates of Burmese smuggling rings operate in conjunction with the high-ups in the Burmese junta, on the Bangladesh side, it is usually the political pressure upon the law enforcement agencies that prevent them from taking any actions, the Bangladeshi press has often suggested.  Besides, many corrupt officials on both sides of the border act as party to the illegal cross-border trafficking, a renowned trader in Maungdaw town, western Burma, alleged.

The smuggling rings operate at Maungdaw and Sittwe in Rakhine State in Western Burma, close to Bangladesh, and in Teknaf, Cox’s Bazaar and Chittagong in Bangladesh.  Large cargo vessels and trawlers are loaded with electronic goods, crockery, agricultural produce, fish and shrimps at points under the ‘safe control’ of the Burmese law enforcement agencies in Burma including Sittwe in Rakhine State and Pyi in Burma Proper before they are sailed to the coastline between Chittagong and St Martin’s Island in Bangladesh.   There the Bangladeshi operators under the political guardianship of the ruling coalition unload the illegal contraband in safe havens.

With growing numbers of drug pushers and vendors throughout Bangladesh, there is a rising concern about the trafficking of drugs from Burma.  In a recent haul a contingent of troops from the Bangladesh Rifles Battalion 23 of Teknaf in south-eastern Bangladesh unearthed illegal narcotic drugs and textile goods worth US $20,000 from an underground store in the area, reported the Janakantha, a Bengali Dhaka daily.

A veteran journalist from Cox’s Bazaar added that, in the guise of border trade, volumes of goods imported from Burma are under invoiced, and through shady deals and arrangements narcotics are filtered into Bangladesh.  Many of the illegal drug traffickers in the area are so powerful that no government agencies dare take action against them for fear of loosing life or jobs.  #