Chinese Fences Near Shan State Boundary Renew Border Tensions With Myanmar

By The Irrawaddy 26 November 2020

NAYPYITAW—The Myanmar military has sent a letter to Chinese officials objecting to the construction of fences near the China-Myanmar border in Laukkai Township in the Kokang Self-Administered Zone (SAZ) in northern Shan State, military spokesperson Major General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy.

The objection follows Chinese authorities’ construction of fences near border post BP-125 on Sunday and between posts BP-121 and BP-122 on Nov. 17. China has moved to crack down on illegal border crossings from Myanmar due to the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in the country.

“The local battalion sent a letter of objection to the Chinese side. We objected based on our 1961 treaty on the China-Myanmar boundary,” Major General Zaw Min Tun said.

One of the provisions of the treaty stipulates that no structures shall be built within 10 meters of the demarcation line on either side.

China has suspended construction work after receiving letters of objection from the military and Kokang administrators, said Zhao Te Chang, president of the Kokang SAZ.

Kokang officials also visited the site and negotiated with Chinese officials involved in the construction work.

The fences were erected in the border areas to curb the spread of the pandemic by preventing illegal entrants from crossing in either direction, according to China.

However, a Laukkai resident said on condition of anonymity that if one side wants to carry out fencing work along the border, it should inform the other in advance.

Sai Tun Aye, a Lower House lawmaker for Monghsu Township in Shan State, said China’s unilateral move to construct the fence reflected the power imbalance between the two nations.

He said China was behaving like a bad neighbor. “Our country is weak on all sides. We always experience the same kind of bullying [from China],” he said.

The dispute over the border between northern Shan State and China has simmered on and off since 2018. China’s frequent erecting of fences and flagpoles along Shan State’s northern border without notifying the Myanmar side is a longstanding source of tension.

In January 2019, the Chinese Border Guard destroyed a Myanmar flagpole between BP-144/3 and BP-144/4 in Chinshwehaw Township in the Kokang SAZ.

China and Myanmar share a 2,227-km border. The countries signed a boundary protocol in 1961, under which they agreed to conduct joint inspections of the demarcated boundary every five years, but this has only occurred twice—in 1984-86 and 1992-95.

Last year, Union Minister for International Cooperation U Kyaw Tin said Myanmar and China had agreed to conduct the third joint inspection of their shared boundary next year, after 24 years of not being able to implement the activity.

Moreover, the two sides have agreed to conduct aerial photography and joint inspections, erect new boundary pillars, repair and reconstruct missing pillars, draw up new boundary maps and draft a new protocol, he said.

Nan Lwin and Thiha Lwin contributed to the report.

You may also like these stories:

Thousands of Rakhine Civilians Return Home Amid Stability in Western Myanmar

Myanmar’s Corruption Commission Tops Regional Poll

Myanmar’s Second Investment Policy Review Urges Further Liberalization