A soldier walking past a sign warning against smuggling in Rantau Panjang yesterday. Pix by Fathil Asri

RANTAU PANJANG: The armed forces’ move to tighten security along the 128km-long Kelantan-Thailand border has seen a 50 per cent drop in smuggling activities.

Increased patrols and static security details are credited for the success. Smugglers admit they are badly hit.

Of the 129 smuggling bases, 30 have been identified as hotspots for smugglers crossing the border.

Soldiers have been stationed on a 24-hour static security detail at these places, preventing smugglers from using these “bases”.

The New Straits Times Press followed a patrol, led by 8th Brigade commander Brigadier-General Datuk Nazari Abd Hadi, into Munduk town, Thailand.

About 20 boats were docked along the riverbanks there and across the river in the town.

These boats ferried passengers from Kelantan to Munduk. Since the increased patrols, these boats had stopped operating, indicating that some of their passengers were smugglers.

The area looked like a ghost town. There were no cars parked there. In the past, villagers used to charge RM5 for each car parked in the area. After parking, the owners would cross the border. Now, it was empty. Nazari said at least 50 smugglers were active daily.

“Since security was tightened, only 10 smugglers are active and bold enough to carry on with their activities.

“However, not all of their attempts have been successful as we have curbed them.

“It is difficult to put an end to smuggling activities as the Kelantan-Thailand border is long and ‘open’, and we have only 400 men patrolling the entire stretch.”

Nazari said he was aware that locals were angry with the armed forces for stopping people from crossing Sungai Golok into Thailand, as this had disrupted their daily economic activities.

“But, we have no choice. National security is important and anyone crossing Sungai Golok can smuggle items across the border, while weapons, such as firearms, can be smuggled into the country.”

*Additional reporting by Mohd Zulkifli Zainuddin

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