BUKIT KAYU HITAM: For just RM50 per job, tontos are willing to “sell themselves and the nation” to the smuggling trade, a Kedah Malaysia Border Security Agency (Aksem) source said.
Many of these tontos are unemployed villagers living close to smuggling routes, he added.
“They are told when smuggling runs will be made.
“When the time comes, they roam the area on motorcycles and let their bosses know whether the route is either ‘good to go’ or if the authorities are close.
“These tontos can be anyone. They are indeed very hard to detect. Everything is done discreetly,” he said.
As for the trail at Bukit Kachi, the source said at least 20 tontos would lurk along the route when a smugglers’ convoy was inbound, to keep watch for the authorities.
“When we visit the nearby foothills, we often come across two or three small campfires that were recently put out.
“We believe these fires were set by the tontos to keep themselves warm and to drive off insects as information is passed to the smugglers,” he added.
He said the tontos also watched other areas frequently used by smugglers, including the oil palm plantation near the duty-free complex here.
“Some smugglers use a specific area in the plantation as a transit area for their goods,” he added.
The Malaysian drivers who transport the goods are paid about RM300 per trip.
The source said this was a risky proposition for the drivers because many had been intercepted further along the smuggling route, and their vehicles were seized along with the smuggled goods.