Wed, October 27, 2021


China’s Covid-19 resurgence leaves Muse, northeastern door of Myanmar, and returning migrant workers in limbo

The second China (Lancang)-Myanmar (Lashio) Border Business and Expo took place both online and offline on August 26 with a view to enhancing the bilateral border cooperation and facilitating the Belt and Road Initiative and China-Myanmar Economic Pivot, said a statement issued by the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar.

Secretary of Lancang City Committee of Communist Party Mr Yang Haodong said: “With support from Myanmar as well as a bilateral effort, a China Yunnan-Myanmar Yangon-Indian Ocean Container Maritime-Motor Road-Railroad Transport route has been successfully opened.” 

A first batch of containers loaded with goods from a third country will arrive at Chinshwehaw border gate via Yangon port and then go to China, he added.

He quoted Secretary General Mr Xi Jinping as saying that the inauguration of a China-Myanmar-Indian Ocean route was a milestone for sustainable development of Lancang. It is the important achievement to further strengthen China-Myanmar trade, he said. He also expressed his belief that holding the expo would forge cooperation between businesspeople of the two countries and bring close contacts between the two peoples. 

Mr Yang Haodong continued that China hoped for a new page on Paukphaw relations by working together with Myanmar.

And it has set alarm bells ringing for Muse, the northeastern door of Myanmar, which is seeking most of the State revenues in border trade. Muse is carrying out border trade activities with Kyel Gaung, Ruili and Wangtain, border towns of China, yielding economic benefits for both sides. 

Since its establishment, Muse has been busy with shopkeepers, buyers and merchants. But dark days came to the town when it started experiencing the Covid-19 pandemic in early March 2020.

After reports of first Covid-19 cases in Mansi and Ruil, China and Muse, Myanmar in March 2020, China started close monitoring and imposed lockdowns in the whole towns by adopting Covid prevention policies. 

On June 8, 2020, China closed Nandaw and Hsinphyu border gates, affecting local people from both regions and their socio-economy. 

In April, all the border gates in Muse were closed but Kyinhsankyawt border gate was reopened. Flow of commodities except Covid-19 protective equipment came to a stop.

According to the data from the ministry of commerce, Myanmar’s foreign trade value over the past 10 months this fiscal year has declined by US$6.740 billion when compared to the same period of last fiscal.

In the period, export value was just US$12.843 billion and import value US$12.881 billion.

Border trade value was just over US$8.7 billion with a decline of over US$880 million, compared to the same period of last fiscal year.

Muse has seen changes resulting from the current political situation, healthcare situation in the Covid-19 resurgence and low trade.

The town has experienced the Covid-19 third wave since June 26 reporting 1,633 cases, 1,462 recoveries and 59 deaths till August 26.

In a bid to ensure regular trade at Muse 105th Mile Border Trade Zone on the border between Myanmar and China, a public company is building a 1,000-bed hospital for Covid-19 treatment center and a quarantine center in the field used for buying and selling fruit.

“Construction is going on. If we can control Covid-19, we will be able to resume trade as regularly as ever. Cargo truck drivers and assistants will receive testing. For those testing positive, they will be sent to the hospital. For negative results, they will get vaccinated,” said U Sai Khin Maung, vice chairman of Muse 105th Mile Fruit Wholesale. 

Construction started on August 16 with Chine technology and equipment support. It has now completed by 80 percent.

The project is expected to cost about K100 million, and two doctors and 10 nurses are to be appointed. But, reports say the number of healthcare staff is not enough.

“At a meeting, the medical superintendent of Muse Township People’s Hospital said due to staff shortages, one doctor and about five nurses would be sent for healthcare. The hospital construction is being financed by cash donations from some well-wishers. But now, infection and death rates are decreasing significantly,” said U Kyaw Than, chairman of Parami Social Aid Organization. 

However, a medical team comprising doctors and nurses led by District People’s Hospital medical superintendent Dr Han Naing Soe, civil society organizations and auxiliary fire brigade members will reportedly be giving a helping hand to the hospital and quarantine center. Meanwhile, Chinese Myanmar businesspeople and donors will provide medicines and meals, according to the Muse Township Covid-19 Prevention, Control and Treatment Committee.

Myanmar migrant workers are among those suffering the Covid-19 crisis. They have migrated to China to work in its border towns such as Kyel Gaung and Ruili. They help increase production capacity in China and send their salaries back to their families in Myanmar. So, the workforce of Myanmar migrants produces mutual benefits.

In the lockdown period, China allowed Myanmar workers to leave for their motherland from July 26 to August 10 through the Nandaw border gate in Muse, northern Shan State, which is a town bordering China. Then, the border gate was closed again but workers were allowed to leave only on August 16.

They are returning to their country as they have difficulty with their living conditions in China after lockdowns were imposed and shops and factories closed in Kyel Gaung and Ruili.

There are seven border gates on the border between Muse District and the regions close to Yunnan Province. Since earlier July 2020, China has closed them due to the Covid-19 pandemic causing difficulties for Myanmar workers.

On June 15, 44 Myanmar workers wishing to return to their country were allowed to go home through an illegal route. 

After that, Myanmar workers reported their difficulties to social organizations in Ruili and Kyel Gaung. The issue was raised with Muse authorities, who then sought coordination with Chinese authorities.

Then, a plan came to allow tens of thousands of Myanmar citizens in China to return to their motherland with dignity through the official routes.

From August 26 to August 26, 3,630 men and 3,260 women totaling 6,890 re-entered Myanmar. 

According to the Muse Township Red Cross Society and charity organizations, some Myanmar workers in those Chinese towns became jobless after the lockdown and closures of shops and factories. As they could not afford house rents, they had to stay roadside or on vacant land. They faced various hardships such as poor living conditions and mugging.

All in all, responsible officials and organizations should work together with a humanitarian spirit to help the citizens through efforts to improve the country’s political, health and socio-economic situations.  

Published : September 01, 2021