Chinese border authorities are not letting cargo trucks from Myanmar pass through a key entry point into China from northern Myanmar’s Kachin state under a new cross-border cargo policy to control the spread of the coronavirus, drivers and a state government official said Monday.
The 300 trucks that transport bananas and watermelons to China each day via a border crossing in the Myanmar town of Lweje near Longchuan County in southwest China’s Yunnan province were not permitted to enter China on Monday, drivers said.
Chinese authorities have restricted their drivers from entering Myanmar and since April 1 have required Myanmar traders in abutting northern Shan state to pay Chinese drivers 10 yuan each (U.S. $1.40) to transport truckloads of rice and fruit from border crossings to local cargo facilities, RFA reported on April 10.
Now, truck drivers say, China’s policy of handing over their vehicle keys to Chinese drivers is being enforced at border crossings in Kachin state.
“Previously, Myanmar drivers could enter Chinese territory in our trucks, but now they are not letting us drive the trucks,” said truck driver Ye Min Zaw. “Chinese drivers drive them from the border to the Chinese towns.
“Chinese authorities said only Chinese drivers can drive the trucks on the China side, but Myanmar truck owners are worried that they may damage their vehicles,” he added.
Another cargo driver, Ko Oo, echoed the sentiment.
“The trucks that the Chinese use in their country are not the same as those we use in our country,” he said. “As they don’t know about our trucks, we are worried that our trucks will be damaged or break down, and that we might lose them because the trucks are very expensive.”
“Drivers and owners alike are worried about it,” he added.
Kan Paik Ti crossing
Government officials meanwhile have met with Chinese authorities to try to resolve the issue and come up with alternatives.
“We have talked to the Chinese authorities about letting Myanmar drivers drive their trucks into China’s territory through the Kan Pite Tee [Kan Paik Ti] border crossing, offload the goods, and return within 24 hours,” said Zaw Win, Kachin state’s minister for immigration and human resources.
In March, the Kachin state government signed a memorandum of understanding with a majority Chinese-owned development company to create a border trade zone in Kan Paik Ti township in the city of Waingmaw near the border, the Myanmar Times reported.
When completed, the border trade zone will be incorporated into the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, a subsection of the massive Belt and Road Initiative.
People from both Myanmar and China have been barred from crossing at land border trade gates in Kachin state since the first week of April, though the passages have remained open for cargo traffic.
China has refused to let Myanmar drivers pass through entry points in Kachin state since Myanmar announced its first confirmed case of the coronavirus on March 23, though neither side closed the border crossings when the virus began to spread in China.
The Myanmar government has restricted travelers from China and elsewhere from entering the country, while Myanmar citizens returning from abroad are permitted back in but subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine to ensure they do not have the virus.
On Monday, Myanmar registered 62 confirmed coronavirus, or COVID-19, cases, including four fatalities.
Reported by Elizabeth Jangma for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.