YANGON — The thriving illegal business in gold across Myanmar’s porous borders is likely to continue unchecked until the government legalises trade of the raw material, traders and industry sources said.
Industry bodies have asked the Commerce Ministry to strike the precious metal from its list of restricted goods, saying this would boost government coffers and help to combat smuggling, the Myanmar Times reported on Wednesday.
Traders exploit international price differences for the raw material, selling to smugglers who transport the metal out of the country, said Myo Myint, chair of the Yangon Region Gold Entrepreneurs Association.
Gold enters and leaves Myanmar through Muse on the Chinese border, Myawaddy on the Thai border and Maungdaw on the border with Bangladesh, he said. When the price of gold is high in Yangon, gold is smuggled into the country and when the price is low, it is sold overseas.
Traders confirmed there is profit to be made by selling Myanmar gold to neighbouring countries, where it can often fetch a higher price than in the local market.
“We send gold overseas because it makes more profit. It is transported by various routes including across the Indian border at Tamu [in Sagaing region]. Smugglers do not have to pay tax, which means they can make a good income,” said one Yangon-based gold trader who asked not to be named.
Maung Aung, an adviser to the ministry, said demand is strongest from India. “India is the country with the most demand for raw gold, as well as for finished products. Gold is also one of India’s main exports, which it sells on to other countries including to the Middle East.”
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