Myanmar Says Chinese ‘COVID-19’ Fence Breaches Border Agreement

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 23 December 2020

Yangon — China is erecting a barbed-wire fence along its border with Myanmar to prevent unregistered migrants from spreading COVID-19 but the Naypyitaw authorities claim it encroaches on the neutral buffer zone.

China started erecting the fence in October along the border in Kachin and Shan states.

“The fence is not along the entire border, largely just in populous areas,” said U Thein Min Tun, the boundary director of the Consular and Legal Affairs Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The department claims China has infringed upon the officially demarcated border in eight places in Shan State.

Burmese prime minister U Nu and his Chinese counterpart, Zhou Enlai, signed a border agreement in October 1960. Border posts were erected the following year.

Under the agreement, both countries agreed to avoid permanent construction within 10 meters of the 2,170km border.

China has allegedly violated the agreement in Laukkai in the Kokang Self-Administered Zone in northeastern Shan State. Myanmar’s military has also filed a complaint.

In Kachin State, the fence was erected more than 10 meters from the border, said U Thein Min Tun.

“They said they erected the fence because of COVID-19. We will ask if whether it will be removed after the pandemic,” he said.

Myanmar and China are arranging a meeting to discuss the establishment of border fences, including the ones in eight locations, U Thein Min Tun said.

Muse Township general administrator U Thurein said the Chinese authorities told him the fence is temporary to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“The fence does not cross our territory but it is erected within 10 meters of the border on the Chinese side. They said they erected the fence because of COVID-19 and will consider removing it when the pandemic is over. We have reported it to the central government,” he said.

The Kachin State government said it was not informed about the fence prior to construction.

The state’s chief minister, Dr. Khet Aung, said the Chinese have been asked to remove buildings within 10 meters of the border in the past.

China has erected the fence on its border at Lweljel in Momauk Township, said the Kachin State lawmaker for the township, U Ne Win.

“The police are monitoring the work with security cameras. There are no security personnel deployed along the border. There is an outpost about 1km away so cameras are being used instead,” he said.

China has closed the official border crossings.

As corn and sugarcane are harvested during the cool season in China, migrant workers from Myanmar cross the border to work in Chinese farms.

U Ne Win said laborers are losing a traditional source of income while the border is closed.

China also erected the fence along the border with Laiza and Pajaung in Kachin State, which is held by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

“China informed us before erecting the fence to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and that the fence is not permanent,” said KIA information officer Colonel Naw Bu.

The 3-4-feet fence was erected about two months ago, he said.

On Wednesday morning Myanmar reported 117,946 COVID-19 cases with 2,484 deaths and 97,819 recoveries.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko 

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