Brigadier-General Datuk Nazari Abd Hadi says it is difficult to completely put an end to smuggling as the Kelantan-Thailand border is long and open. Pix by Fathil Asri

RANTAU PANJANG: The armed forces’ stringent move to curtail smuggling along the Kelantan-Thailand is so effective that smugglers are starting to look for legitimate work.

A smuggler, who wanted to be known only as Mie, told the New Straits Times Press that he used to smuggle petrol across the border at least five times a day.

“My ‘business’ was so successful that I bought five four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicles to carry out the smuggling operations.”

“However, with the increase in security, we are seeing a drastic drop in our smuggling business,” said the 47-year-old, who used to operate here and in Tumpat.

“I have been smuggling goods across the border for a long time. The money earned enabled me to buy a house and several cars without having to take out loans.”

He said he had a free hand smuggling petrol into Thailand, but in the past year, he and his “colleagues” were badly hit when the armed forces increased patrols and stationed soldiers on 24-hour static security details at their smuggling “bases”.

“I used to smuggle petrol into Thailand five times a day but, now, it is difficult to do it even once a week. Our activities and ‘bases’ are under scrutiny.”

Mie said he was so cash-strapped that he had to sell off four of his 4WDs.

“Now, I have to look for other means to feed my family. Fellow smugglers are also facing a similar situation.”

Another smuggler, who declined to be identified, said he had curbed his smuggling operations as he feared being arrested by the authorities.

The 34-year-old said he had been smuggling controlled items into Thailand for the past five years and made thousands of ringgit each week.

“I used to cross back and forth five times a day, bringing in rice and cooking oil. Now, I am afraid to do it as I would be nabbed by the authorities. I do it only once a fortnight.”

Even then, he said, he took only goods in small quantities as they were easier to conceal.

“The situation is such that I am considering stopping the smuggling activities and to start looking for legitimate work.”

*Additional reporting by Mohd Zulkifli Zainuddin

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