Myanmar, China to Conduct Joint Boundary Inspection Next Year, Ministry Says

By Nan Lwin 17 September 2019

YANGON—Myanmar and China plan to conduct the third joint inspection of their shared boundary next year, after 24 years of not being able to implement the activity, according to the Union minister for international cooperation.

“Negotiations on the joint inspection process involving the two sides are ongoing,” Union Minister for International Cooperation U Kyaw Tin said in the Amyotha Hluttaw, Myanmar’s Upper House, on Monday.

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

“The first stage—taking the aerial photos—will begin in January 2020,” U Kyaw Tin said.

The process of taking the aerial photos is expected to be complete in April, he said.

Officials from the two countries’ foreign ministries have sat down to discuss the joint inspection process a total of four times in 2017 and this year.

China and Myanmar share a 2,227-kilometer-long 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.

A dispute over the border between northern Shan State and China has simmered on and off since 2008. Last year, a row erupted over the location of the boundary between the two countries on the Ruili River near northern Shan State’s Muse Township.

The dispute erupted near Pang Sai Kyukote sub-township in Muse when Chinese villagers put up a fence nearly 30 meters inside Myanmar in Hpai Kawng Village. The Chinese villagers eventually stopped the activity and took down their fencing materials after Myanmar villagers complained to district officers.

Myanmar’s Shan and Kachin states are important to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). As part of the huge project, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) last year establishing the China-Myanmar Economic corridor (CMEC), which will reach from China’s Yunnan Province to Mandalay in central Myanmar, from where it will stretch south to Yangon and west to the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone in Rakhine State.

The government last year approved three locations to house cross-border economic cooperation zones on the Chinese border in Kachin and Shan states. The zones will comprise trading houses, industrial sites and other facilities.

In July, Union Minister for Commerce U Than Myint said demarcation of the border between the countries was important to the process of choosing sites for the cross-border economic cooperation zones.

He stressed the importance of ensuring that constructing road infrastructure in the areas did not harm villages, wards and townships, or their cultural integrity.

“Negotiations between the countries and coordination of land use on the demarcated border will need to be completed before we can call for expressions of interest,” he said.

This story was updated on Sept. 18, 2019.

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