THE Malaysian government has put smugglers and people traffickers on notice with a new piece of legislation.
The Malaysian Border Security Agency (Aksem) Act 2017, which came into force yesterday, seeks to secure the country’s land borders against smuggling and illegal activities by streamlining control and action.
With the coming into force of the act, Aksem now has more autonomy and control over the enforcement work carried out at the country’s borders.
The act comes with a high-level committee chaired by the home minister, and the coordination committee chaired by the Home Ministry’s secretary-general.
The act gives the director-general full powers to coordinate the agencies and departments which come under Aksem, such as police, the Immigration Department and Customs Department, National Anti-Drug Agency, National Kenaf and Tobacco Board.
However, legal muscle can only do so much. The law can give the teeth, but the bite is in the enforcement.
No less than RM2 billion worth of contraband comes into the country every year.
As this paper had reported, in the last five years illicit trade involving contraband, such as cigarettes and alcohol (RM47 million), vehicles (RM46 million), firecrackers (RM7 million), diesel and petrol (RM3 million), and rice (RM2.7 million), has been a thriving black market business run by well-organised syndicates.
Less common items like wood, cosmetics and animals ring in millions more. Weapons too have entered the list, though a value is hard to place.
More tragically, people trafficking has become a problem in the recent past. This paper’s expose on Dec 20 of human trafficking death camps and 150 human remains in Perlis indicate what can go wrong if enforcement slackens.
A good piece of legislation backed by effective enforcement is obviously one way to stop the illegal flow of goods and people.
Two other paths to snuffing illegal activities must not be overlooked. Like all problems, the source is where the solution lies.
Many of the items smuggled out of Malaysia are subsidised, meaning they are cheaper than their equivalents sold across the border, wherever the border is.
Contraband, too, enter the country in container loads. For every 12m-long container of cigarettes that is smuggled into the country, Malaysia loses RM6 million.
As the contraband trade is regional, an Asean approach may be the most effective. Solving human trafficking is more complicated, though.
Consider the case of the trafficking of Rohingya and Bangladeshis.
The solution lies in stopping the people flow at source, which means Myanmar must stop the persecution of the Rohingya, and Bangladesh must take steps to halt illegal exit.
So long as the persecution of the Rohingya continues, and the Bangladeshis seek to escape economic hardship, human traffickers will make a killing in more ways than one.
Now armed with new legislative muscle and more bite, our border security agency must doggedly pursue these criminals to the very end.
We cannot afford another Wang Kelian. One peril in Perlis is enough.