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Arms Smuggling and the Cost of Waging War


4 May 2014

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…Myanmar was both a destination and a transit route for smuggling weapons that originated in Cambodia. The porous border between Myanmar and Thailand made smuggling easy. Weapons could be transported across the border, which measures 1,309 miles (about 2,107 kilometres) from the port of Kawthaung at the southern tip of Myanmar to the wild mountainous terrain in the northeast of the country, where the borders of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet in the region known as the Golden Triangle.

Weapons that were not transported overland were shipped by a more circuitous route involving a journey by boat across the Gulf of Thailand and then by land to Myanmar. They would be unloaded on the Thai coast south of Hua Hin, near the narrowest section of the Isthmus of Kra, and taken to the Myanmar border about 30 miles (48km) away. In the early 1990s it took a motorbike only about 20 minutes to make the journey from one side to the other.

Many of the weapons shipped overland, by the sea-land route or directly by sea were destined for islands in the Myeik (Megui) Archipelago from where they would be sent across the Bay of Bengal to Chittagong in southern Bangladesh. From there they were transported to northeastern India, for the insurgent outfits fighting both the Myanmar and Indian governments, or across the border for Chin and other groups in Myanmar.

It was a fast and easy way to deliver weapons to the Subcontinent. I learned from some smugglers – many of whom were connected to various armed ethnic groups – that a speed boat could travel from the Myeik Archipelago to Chittagong within a day or so…

ID: N725

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