Monday, September 25, 2017

Shan State government clears access to ethnic army held border gates

Two Chinese border trading gates controlled by the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) have reopened, according to the Shan State government, which plans to allow Myanmar traders access to the border gates this month.

Traders sit at an outdoor market in the border town of Mong La in eastern Shan State. Photo: AFPTraders sit at an outdoor market in the border town of Mong La in eastern Shan State. Photo: AFP

The Mine Lar gate in Mine Lar/Mong La township and the Mine Yu gate in neighouring Mine Yaung/Mong Yawng township are both held by the powerful ethnic group the NDAA, which controls an autonomous area in eastern Shan State.

Both gates closed on October 23, a few weeks after soldiers belonging to the United Wa State Army, a longtime ally of the NDAA, mobilised hundreds of soldiers into NDAA territory, sparking fears of a confrontation.

U Min Aung, a representative of the Shan State government’s border gates supervision unit, told The Myanmar Times on December 9 that the state government had learned that the gates had been reopened.

He was unaware of whether the closure or the reopening had been instigated by the NDAA or the Chinese authorities on the other side. Both the NDAA and the Wa are allies of China.

With the area now stable, the Shan State government issued a statement on its decision to allow access to the gates, said U Min Aung, which included confirmation from the state government’s chief minister U Linn Htut and state minister for border security Colonel Soe Moe Aung.

Although the NDAA controls the gates, traders coming from Union government held territory must pass through the Wang Tar Pin gate in Tachileik township. U Ming Aung said the Shan State government had issued directives to the authorities in Tachileik and Kyaingtong/Kengtung townships to allow traders to start travelling to the gates this month.

Although the Mine Lar and Mine Yu were closed in late October, trade across the border did not stop completely, said U Min Aung. Some traders instead switched to other routes that the government was unable to stop, said U Min Aung.

The Mine Lar and Mine Yu gates are the only ones for which Shan State government customs departments and the other government offices can provide the necessary documentation.

“The [state] government has specified the Mine Lar and Mine Yu routes as the legal routes,” said U Min Aung, adding that the lack of open trading gates with customs infrastructure meant law–abiding traders were unable to do business.

The halt to trading hit the local rice industry, which relies on exports to China, and some millers suspended operations during the closure.

The reopening should be a boon for the local agricultural industry, but U Min Aung said that there would need to be an effort to make the public aware of the move.

Trading also recently returned to normal in the 105 mile border trading area in Muse township in northern Shan State. Border trading there was closed briefly after an alliance made up of soldiers from the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Kachin Independence Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Arakan Army attacked military and police targets.

Translation by Khine Thazin Han, San Layy and Win Thaw Tar