JAKARTA: An international financial watchdog has placed Myanmar on its money-laundering watchlist, urging the country at the heart of the drug-producing “Golden Triangle” to boost its efforts to seize crime proceeds.
The decision on Friday by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to include Myanmar on its “grey list”, puts the country on notice to make good on a “high-level” commitment to strengthen its anti-money laundering regime.
A spokesperson for the Myanmar government could not be contacted on Friday but its representative at this week’s FATF meetings, Kyaw Win Thein, told Reuters on Wednesday that the country had a detailed strategic implementation plan to counter money-laundering.
The FATF, an inter-governmental agency based in Paris, said in a statement that Myanmar had “made progress”. This included introducing legislative measures to curb money-laundering and new regulations for its cash-based remittance system.
However, it lacked understanding of “money-laundering risks in key areas”.
In a 2018 report, the FATF found “Myanmar faces extremely high levels of proceeds-generating crimes” and was “exposed to a large number of very significant money laundering threats”.
Transnational drug syndicates have long operated in Myanmar’s north and northeastern borderlands, setting up illicit drug production facilities in semi-lawless enclaves controlled by armed ethnic groups, who use drug proceeds to fund their campaigns.
Myanmar’s government is in peace talks with most of these groups. Some but not all have been incorporated into border guard forces allied to the military.
Arms trafficking, illegal jade mining and logging are also big money-spinners for organised crime, the 2018 report added.
In Friday’s statement, the FATF urged Myanmar to cooperate with other countries to combat the money laundering activities of global crime groups. It also pinpointed the need for Myanmar to use financial intelligence in law enforcement investigations and do a better job seizing the proceeds of crime.
Thirteen countries are on the FATF grey list. Cambodia is the only other Southeast Asian country on the list.