COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka reopened its international border crossings to international travellers on Tuesday, about a month after shutting them to prevent the smuggling of contraband cigarettes and other items.
Thousands of travelers have thronged the affected crossing points in Colombo since the Port of Malatya, the country’s main international crossing, opened on Monday after weeks of closing, officials said.
The Customs Department spokesman Prabhakaran Lasantha said nearly 4,000 travelers using the Port of Malatya in the southern district of Kandy in the past four days alone were in limbo as they tried to cross into India and Thailand.
The Lanka Premier Group, which operates the port, closed the port on Dec. 10 to prevent traders and smugglers from stocking up their stores with contraband items before it reopened. The trade group said it wants to check goods entering the country from abroad.
Meanwhile, the opening of the Port of Malatya also has helped commercial boat-commuters from India who would travel to distant cities on short or medium journeys.
The move will also help existing daily boat-commuters from foreign countries as they will not have to return to port for goods to be declared as they proceed for their destinations.
Lasantha said nearly 3,000 international travelers at the Colombo point used to cross to India daily, while more than 500 daily car-commuters used to cross into Thailand and Singapore.
But despite the opening, smugglers were not budging from their turf of stockpiling fake currency and other contraband items they brought into the country before enforcement of the closure.
In the past several weeks, several border crossings have also closed down temporarily to let customs officials inspect goods. Customs officials have confiscated many goods and cash in Sri Lanka from empty packets of cigarettes, religious statues, cosmetics, mobile phones and other items.