Army commander's brother accused of smuggling goods

Sep 23, 2008 (DVB), The brother of the new Northeast Command chief has antagonized local drivers by reportedly freely smuggling black market goods along the Muse-Mandalay road, a major trade route between Burma and China.

Former lieutenant-colonel Aung Lin Htut, a retired army officer and the brother of Northeast commander brigadier-general Aung Than Htut, owns a freight company named Seikkyite and has been transporting contraband goods, local drivers said.

"Their air-conditioned cars have luggage compartments three and half feet high and nine feet long in the middle, and they stuff them full of contraband goods," a driver said.

Other freight companies such as Yadana Soe, Shweli Oo and Winner have reportedly followed the example of Aung Lin Htut and are bribing the authorities to allow their vehicles through.

But 50 privately-owned vehicles were banned from loading and unloading along the route by the authorities earlier this month, leaving many vehicle owners and hired drivers unemployed, drivers said.

Private vehicles are also subject to spot checks and fines, leading increasing numbers of passengers to use the freight companies' vehicles.

Representatives of Seikkyite and local authorities were unavailable for comment.

Reporting by DVB

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