Recently, the number of deadly cross border shootings has escalated on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border. RFE/RL reports that in the past two months, Uzbek border guards shot dead at least 13 people who were crossing into Uzbekistan from Kyrgyzstan’s southern Batken region. According to the Uzbek government, the security services are only firing on people who illegally cross the border and smugglers who disregard orders from border guards. But there have been allegations that the security services are themselves involved in smuggling and are in effect protecting their turf rather than the border.
Analysts say that the trade in goods in Uzbekistan is operated by criminal groups who are desperate to maintain their illegal trade networks and eliminate competition. The Uzbek government imposes high customs fees for imported goods thus making it a lucrative business for those who control the market. According to RFE/RL, the Abu-Sahiy company, which is allegedly controlled by President Islam Karimov’s youngest daughter, Lola Karimova, is one of the biggest importers of consumer goods from China to Uzbekistan.
Meanwhile, the Kyrgyz government has been in a process of reinforcing its southern borders in order to improve security. In June 500 Kyrgyz border guards arrived in the regions close to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to shore up the border against potential terrorists and drug traffickers. Border Guard spokeswoman Salkyn Abdykariyeva told Central Asia Online that the Osh Border Guard unit alone is responsible for 724 km of “the most difficult and dangerous areas in the tri-border area with China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.”
In addition, 20 mobile checkpoints have been set up by Kyrgyzstan on its southern borders this month. These mobile checkpoints cannot be seen by approaching vehicles and are an additional security measure to crack down on illegal migrants. Guards along the Kyrgyz-Uzbek frontier report frequent attempts at illegal crossings.
The issue of border security has been raised by Kyrgyzstan at the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit that took place in Kazakhstan this month. According to military analyst Alisher Khomrokhon, “the issues with Kyrgyzstan’s border security were clearly heard in the recent CSTO and SCO meetings, particularly at the Astana summit, and its allies promised to help the country. In addition, Kyrgyzstan’s border security has also interested NATO, which is considering assisting.”
Read a BBC news article on the drug problem in Kyrgyzstan: Drugs trade ravaging restive Kyrgyz city.