WHILE many are anxiously waiting for the Bukit Kayu Hitam-Danok border gates to be open 24 hours a day, Bukit Kayu Hitam assemblyman Datuk Ahmad Zaini Japar hopes security measures will be stepped up.
Ahmad Zaini said the Kedah government had been informed that the Cabinet had agreed to the border gates being open 24/7 but he was concerned about the manpower.
“We were told that plans for additional manpower have not yet been ironed out and we hope this will be resolved,” he said.
At present, this border crossing opens from 6am to midnight and Ahmad Zaini agrees that keeping it permanently open would spur the local economy.
However, he warned of a possible rise in human trafficking and the smuggling of goods like fuel, firearms and stolen vehicles.
“We hope these issues, which threaten national security, can be addressed. We need all our officers working at the border to be more responsible and to have high integrity.
“We have to increase the security. Kedah and the Federal Government have to be a step ahead and not give criminals the upper hand,” he said.
Ahmad Zaini said Bukit Kayu Hitam would see rapid development with the move and revealed that an expansion of the duty-free zone was in the pipeline.
“More businesses will be operating 24 hours a day.
“Lorries do not have to park overnight here until the border opens in the morning. This increases cost to transporters,” he said.
The border town’s business operators generally welcomed the idea.
Rusnee Mamat, 36, who runs a restaurant in Danok, said the 24/7 opening would benefit both Thailand and Malaysia as people would be free to enjoy their trips across the border without needing to mind the time.
“We will see more people moving between countries even at the wee hours.
“I am sure many food operators will have to think of having their operational hours extended,” she said.
A sundry shop owner, who did not want to be named, however, said enforcement would need to be stricter.
He predicted that more Thais would buy essential goods in Malaysia to take back as prices might be lower here.
Meanwhile, state Immigration director Mohd Amir Othman dismissed rumours that the Padang Besar border would be open 24 hours a day.
This border crossing in Perlis is open from 6am to 10pm daily. The Wang Kelian border checkpoint, also in Perlis, is open from 7am to 7pm daily.