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UNODC provides groundbreaking anti-smuggling training to front-line Myanmar border officers

Yangon (Myanmar), 29 July 2013
- More than 6,150 km of land borders divide Myanmar from Bangladesh, China, India, Lao PDR and Thailand. These borders extend over long stretches of terrain that is difficult to patrol. In areas that are patrolled, border personnel often work with insufficient training, equipment and enforcement power to carry out their duties effectively.

In the fight against transnational organized crime, border security personnel are the first line of defense, making it important that they are properly prepared to respond to the variety of illicit goods and illicit trafficking activities that they confront on a daily basis.

Perhaps best known as a source country for illicit drugs such as opium, heroin and amphetamine-type stimulants, Myanmar is also a significant source and country-of-transit for migrant smuggling, and the illegal trade in protected wildlife and timber products. These crimes represent serious transnational threats due to their human impact, and because they fuel and fund conflicts, terrorism and other illicit activities.

The Government of Myanmar took an important step to combat these threats when in January 2013 it joined the Partnership Against Transnational-crime through Regional Organized Law-enforcement (PATROL) programme, a UNODC-supported counter-smuggling initiative in the Greater Mekong Sub-region.

Through PATROL, UNODC and its partners work with Myanmar law enforcement authorities to strengthen the nation's capacity to tackle the illegal cross-border movement of people, environmental contraband and illicit drugs. PATROL has worked to establish and strengthen Border Liaison Offices (BLOs), facilitate bilateral and multilateral cooperation between regional stakeholders, and develop programmes that train border security officers so that they have the tools and knowledge to do their jobs more effectively.

This comes at an important time for Myanmar.

"As the domestic democratic system evolves and the economy of the country expands, there are indications that threats from transnational organized crime groups are accelerating and diversifying," said Mr. Jason Eligh, UNODC Myanmar Country Manager. "While enhanced regional integration and the development of new road networks are overwhelmingly positive for trade, they also make policing the nation's extensive borders more difficult."

Recently, officials from UNODC's PATROL team and the Transnational Crime Division of the Myanmar Police Force delivered two groundbreaking training courses to frontline border control officers on the identification, interdiction and investigation of serious trafficking cases.

Held in the renowned smuggling hot-spot border towns of Tachileik and Kawthoung, this was the first formal training with international instructors for most of the 50 frontline officers who participated.

Both Tachileik and Kawthoung are home to UNODC-supported BLOs. Operational since 2005, as a part of the PATROL initiative these BLOs are now transitioning from a previous mandate on drug-related crimes to a broader focus on transnational organized crime.

National experts provided training on domestic legal issues while instructors from Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA trained participants in the enforcement of international treaties and conventions norms. In addition, participants gained practical knowledge by engaging in investigation and evidence-gathering exercises such as surveillance, search and seizure, and the arrest and interviewing of suspects.

As a part of the upcoming Country Programme for Myanmar, UNODC will significantly expand its current support to frontline officers in building their human and technical capacity.

These PATROL programme training seminars were supported by the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), the United Nations Environmental Programme, the Secretariat of CITES and it benefitted significantly from the contributions provided by Freeland Foundation and the Canada Border Services Agency.