THE notorious Batas market on the Indonesian side of the border with PNG in West Sepik province is fast becoming a multi-million kina hotspot for illicit goods.
The National visited Batas – fast becoming a mecca for PNG shoppers - at the weekend and saw pornography, sexual toys for both men and women, cigarettes, alcohol and various other items being sold at very cheap prices.
|Batas Market…where the illicit trade into PNG from Indonesia begins.-Nationalpic by MALUM NALU|
A private intelligence source monitoring the illicit trade at the border, told The National that a highly-organised racket involving wealthy Highlands businessmen and local Wutung and West Sepik villagers in the trade of Indonesia-made cigarettes, existed.
A senior government officer told The National in Vanimo that the illicit trade was a serious threat to national security as guns, drugs and human trafficking could easily be carried out from Indonesia.
The intelligence source said the cigarettes were transported to Aitape near the border of East and West Sepik provinces, and then moved down to Wewak and then Madang for transport to the Highlands.
“It comes from the Batas Market, across the Wutung Border Post, and then comes out towards Vanimo,” he said.
“What the Highlands businessmen are doing is that they liaise with the local villagers and get them to carry Indonesian cigarettes across from Batas.
“They stockpile these cigarettes in the villages until they reach 20-30 cartons.
“These then come out from Wutung Village via boat or road to Aitape, transported by road to Wewak, then loaded onto ships or dinghies for Madang or Bogia, where they are picked up and transported by road to Mt Hagen, Minj or Banz.
“The concern is that these Indonesia cigarettes are brought in without paying any excise duty to the government, which is missing out on millions.”
The senior government officer said this was a very serious threat to national security which must be addressed immediately.
“All stakeholders including Customs, police and PNG defence Force must work together,” he said.
“I do not know what the Border Development Authority is doing.
“There are no patrol boats manning the maritime border with Indonesia.
“Cutoms officers at the Wutung Border Post are under-resourced and this is a very big concern.
“Apart from cigarettes, anything can be brought into PNG like firearms, drugs, anything.
“It’s a concern for the government and they have to address this at the national level.
“Smuggling is very big.”