Raging Myanmar border battles severely affect trade with China

Updated 2016-11-24 09:24:29 Global Times

Heavy gunfire heard across border as thousands flee to China

Border trade between China and Myanmar continues to be severely affected from conflicts in northern Myanmar, which has sparked an exodus of thousands to China and damaged infrastructure and transportation.

Military conflicts continued on Wednesday in the border towns of Muse and Kutkai in Myanmar's Shan state between ethnic armed groups and government forces, which began on Sunday. The Myanmar government said eight people have been killed and 29 others wounded.

On Wednesday, few people and vehicles were seen entering or leaving China at the main border gate in Jiegao, an economic development zone in Ruili, the biggest border port in Southwest China's Yunnan Province.

At two other border gates in Jiegao, a few Myanmar residents, vans and trucks loaded with goods crossed the border heading back to Muse, Myanmar's largest trade zone in its northern Shan state.

Thousands of Muse residents have crossed the border to China for safety and have been accommodated in camps.

From Manghai in Yunnan, heavy gunfire could be seen and heard across the border on Wednesday. The two sides used mortars and machine guns, and shells exploded along the border.

Shops and banks in border towns in northern Shan state have been closed since Tuesday due to fighting and assaults on police stations by armed groups, the Standard Times reported. Most Muse residents stayed indoors to avoid the gunfire, while hundreds took cover in monasteries. The Central Myoma Market and night bazaar in Lashio, the biggest town in Shan state, have been shut down amid sporadic gunfire and explosions, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

At the border gate of Wanding, in Dai-Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture in Dehong on the Chinese side, only a few troops of the border defense department were spotted. "Usually you can see people crossing the gate, but now the Myanmar side is at war. People have fled to China," said a local driver surnamed Wan on Wednesday.

A local resident working in an express delivery company in Jiegao said the conflicts have affected business and commodities are stockpiled at the warehouse as they can't deliver cargo to Myanmar, but expects the situation would soon return to normal.

An employee of an electronics store in Jiegao said they have received fewer customers this week than in the past.

"A bridge used to transport goods to Myanmar has been blown up in Muse, so trucks cannot go there," She said.

On Wednesday, Chinese tourists visited the main border gate, which is a local tourist attraction, though shop owners near the main gate said the number of tourists was fewer than before.

A Chinese businesswoman who runs a company in Myanmar that provides customs clearance services to maritime shipments from China to Myanmar, told the Global Times her business has increased, as more people have turned to shipping, which is safer than land transportation. "They [the customers] are afraid of the war," she said.

"If the conflict in Myanmar stops, my clients may return to using land transportation. But since the shopping frenzy for Christmas and Chinese New Year is near, they are concerned [about the war]," she said.

Trade between Myanmar and China picked up in the first five months of 2016, reaching .3 billion, according to figures released by Myanmar's Ministry of Commerce in September.

"The Jiegao port processes nearly 60 percent of China-Myanmar trade. The conflicts may lead to a shortage of goods and food in Myanmar, as people across the border rely on Chinese goods," He Lin, a professor at Yunnan University, told the Global Times.

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