Updated at 7:37 a.m. ET on 2016-08-05
An ex-Malaysian police chief has called for close monitoring of corrupt government officers serving along Malaysia's borders with Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia amid rising concerns over smuggling of guns, drugs and people, saying only officers with “high integrity” should be allowed to serve in these areas.
“Smuggling and corruption along the borders can be tackled if enforcers have more integrity in carrying out their duties,” former Malaysian Inspector General of Police (IGP) Musa Hassan told BenarNews in an interview. “So those sent out need to have high integrity.
“How do you make sure that they don’t go astray? One of the ways is to work together with the anti-graft agency so these officers at borders need to be monitored,” said Musa, who heads the Malaysian Community Care Foundation, an NGO involved in fighting rising crime in the country.
Musa, who was the top police officer from 2006 to 2010, capping a four-decade career, made the remarks amid debate in the country over rising concerns over smuggling across the country’s porous borders, including trafficking of drugs, guns, people and commodities such as rice, the country’s staple diet.
The authorities also are worried over a rise in kidnappings in the seas of the east Malaysian state of Sabah by militants based in southern Philippines. Sabah shares a maritime border with the Philippines.
Reports have said that that a lack of enforcement at the Malaysia-Thailand border is believed to be among reasons for smuggling of firearms into Malaysia that has led to an upsurge in killings in the country.
Last year, the police’s intelligence agency noted in a report compiled over 10 years that a startling 80 percent of law enforcement officers in Malaysia’s borders were corrupt, with many of them directly involved in smuggling drugs, weapons and people.
“Most smuggling syndicates or smugglers, in order to carry out their illegal activities, would bribe officials ... only those with the highest discipline and integrity can carry out their duties at borders without fear or favor,” Musa said.
A Malaysian expert agreed that law enforcement personnel at border areas had to be clean in their bid to stem smuggling.
“[T]o overcome this problem, the authorities like the Royal Malaysian Police, the customs and immigration departments need to increase the number of personnel with integrity at the border,” the Institute of Crime and Criminology at Help University Director Akhbar Satar told Malaysia’s state run Bernama news agency.
“I suggest that the government limit the duration of duty for each personnel in charge at the border to not more than three years to avoid them from getting close to the smugglers to the extent of receiving bribes from the smugglers,” he said.
Musa urged the authorities, including the police, to work closely with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to check graft and suggested greater inter-agency cooperation in dealing with the problem.
“The manpower and information sharing need to be integrated between the police, the Immigration Department, Customs and officers from other departments that are stationed at our international borders to weed out smuggling activities,” he said.
The northern state of Kedah’s police chief, Zamri Yahaya, said the federal police had transferred most senior officers stationed at the Bukit Kayu Hitam and Durian Burung border entry points along the Malaysia-Thai border.
He said police were being monitored more closely in their work following the discovery about a year ago of mass graves and skeletal remains believed to be that of ethnic Rohingyas from Myanmar, and 28 human trafficking camps and 139 graves, in Wang Kelian in the northern state of Perlis.
“Police have since formed an internal unit dedicated to carry out spot-checks on the officers stationed at the border and this unit is also tasked with closely monitoring any changes of behavior among officers concerned,” Zamri told BenarNews.
“The government had also appointed a border commander to oversee the operation of various law enforcement agencies comprising of police force, Immigration Department, Customs Department and other agencies at Bukit Kayu Hitam and Durian Burung in [northern] Kedah [state], Padang Besar and Wang Kelian in Perlis, as well as entry points in [northern] Kelantan,” he said.
An earlier version misspelled the former IGP's name.