Malaysia sets up new agency to target smuggling

JOHOR BARU • Malaysia is setting up a new anti-smuggling unit to curb the illegal movement of cars, sugar, oil and even cooking gas tanks out of the country.

The smuggling occurs mainly along the Thai border and from Sabah into Kalimantan, and there is also smuggling of goods into Singapore, officials say. Cheaper Thai rice, meanwhile, is smuggled into Malaysia, along with guns and drugs. Human trafficking rings are also active along the border, which is more than 600km long.

The new Malaysian Border Security Agency, or Aksem, will replace the Anti-Smuggling Unit (UPP), which has been operating for more than 20 years. The Aksem Act could be passed into law during the current sitting of Parliament.

Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed said smuggling was rampant along the Thai border, across which cars and goods that are subsidised by the Malaysian government are taken with impunity, to be sold at higher prices.

"Some of the terrain in the area is hilly and our enforcement agencies are unable to fully stop all these smugglers along our huge land borders," he said.

"In the south with Singapore and Indonesia, we have a natural water border but we also face smuggling involving essential items."

In Sabah state, cooking gas tanks are smuggled into Kalimantan, Datuk Nur Jazlan said.

He said the UPP was a loose set-up involving cooperation between several agencies including the police, immigration, Customs and the Road Transport Department.

"Now, we will have a more formal set-up and Aksem will report directly to its director-general, who will be from the police force," Mr Nur Jazlan said.

"We hope that once the Aksem Act is passed in Parliament, they will be given more clout and bite to curb smuggling and improve on their prosecution of cases nationwide," he said after attending an event in Johor on Sunday.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2016, with the headline 'Malaysia sets up new agency to target smuggling'. Print Edition | Subscribe