Home Insider Interview “Illicit Trade is a major problem for Myanmar”

“Illicit Trade is a major problem for Myanmar”

Interview with: Khine Wai Thwe

Head of Legal and External Affairs/ Director of BAT Myanmar


Please introduce yourself.

I’m Khine Wai Thwe, head of legal and external affairs at British American Tobacco Myanmar. Currently, I’m attending this forum on behalf of Euro Chamber of Myanmar and I’m heading the AIC Advocacy group as a co-chair.

How did you end up in current position of EuroCham Myanmar?

There are 10 advocacy groups at EuroCham Myanmar and AIT advocacy group is one of them. I’ve chosen as co-chair of AIT Advocacy group through members voting. I am committed to be part of it to tackle the challenges of illicit Trade in Myanmar.

What are the current statistics for illicit trade in Myanmar when compared with ASEAN countries?

That is a good question. As I have mentioned during the panel discussion, Illicit Trade is a global challenge not only specific to Myanmar. To tackle this illicit trade issues, there are different avenues to look into.  With reference to the global illicit trade environment index, Myanmar was ranked 82 out of 84 across all categories and indicators.  This index reviewed the structural landscape, not the size and scope of illicit trade in Myanmar. Myanmar rank rather low in terms of structural landscape of government policy, supply and demand, transparency and trade including custom environment accordingly. All these situations are enablers of illicit trade in Myanmar. That’s why we need improvement across all of those indicators.

What are key issues to the growth of illicit trade in Myanmar? Which industries are in growth of illegalities?

We covered this topic specifically in European Chamber of Commerce Myanmar White Book since 2018.  Key issues include Porous Borders, Barriers to Effective Enforcement, High Price Differential, Weak Penalties and Burdensome Policy and Regulations. All these issues are challenges for all business sectors including FMCGs. 

Firstly, to tackle the issues in illicit-trade, we need to measure the size and scale of the illicit-trade.

How do you think about the role of transparency in attracting foreign investments into the country?

This is a critical aspect. We cannot operate without due diligence, transparency and code of business conduct. European businesses are setting up best practices. This is the reason FDIs are part of such advocacy groups. We do really need to lead by examples in terms of responsible business practices. That’s why I exerted much of my effort to these initiatives.

Which strategies are being implemented in response to tackling illicit trade?

Firstly, to tackle the issues in illicit-trade, we need to measure the size and scale of the illicit-trade. Without those measures, all our positions are not that credible. Secondly, we are not reaching anywhere without the private-public partnership. So we are trying to have political support and partnership through those kind of forums and institutional meetings. We are reaching nowhere without multi stakeholders’ involvement.

How can the practice of anti-illicit trade in frontier markets contribute to the country’s economic development?

Tax collection and revenue are critical contributions to the country’s economic and overall development. The reason why tackling illicit trade plays a vital role is that the government will be losing a substantial amount of tax with the existence of illicit trade.

If you could suggest one change to government policy, what would it be?

There are detailed recommendations as well as potential gains featured at the EuroCham Myanmar’s White Book 2019. I would like to refer to this White Book for further reference.