Thursday, September 20, 2007

Burmese Vessel Suspected of Smuggling Diesel Fuel from Malaysia

By Saw Yan Naing September 5, 2007 Irrawaddy
Eleven Burmese nationals were arrested by Malaysian authorities on Tuesday in Butterworth after anti-smuggling officers inspected a vessel they said was loading subsidized diesel fuel to be taken to Burma, where fuel prices have skyrocketed in recent weeks.

A Malaysian official said they seized 275,000 liters of diesel from a Malaysian tanker at the Prai barter trade warf in Butterworth in northern Penang State.

Barrels of diesel were being loaded into the Burmese-registered vessel's cargo compartment. Two Malaysian were also arrested.

The Burmese vessel was detained. The seizure, the largest so far this year, was valued at RM 500,000 (US $142,515), Guna Seelan, the chief of enforcement for the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry, told The New Straits Times.

"Initial investigations showed that the local company had illegally obtained the subsidized diesel and sold it to foreign vessels," Guna was quoted as saying.

Detainees have been remanded for questioning and could be charged with smuggling prohibited matter. If found guilty, they could be fined up to 250,000 Ringgit (US $71,257) or sentenced to up to three years in jail.

Officers said they believed the smuggling group had been operating for a number of months, causing losses of millions of US dollars to Malaysia.

Meanwhile, a resident in Ranong Province in Thailand said Burmese vessels from Kawthaung and Rangoon regularly bought illegal diesel from ships in the area.

He said diesel smugglers covered their vessel with timber and put diesel in the tank inside the body of the vessel.

"They transfer the diesel and sell it in the sea,” he said.

Following a sharp price increase on fuel inside Burma on August 15 by the military government, Burmese citizens have staged repeated demonstrations during the past week.


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