Myanmar & COVID-19

China Has to Remove Any Permanent Border Fences in Buffer Zone: Myanmar President Office

By Htet Naing Zaw 11 January 2021

Naypyitaw — Myanmar says China will have to remove any new, permanent fences which encroach on the buffer zone between the two countries.

When asked about the issue by The Irrawaddy at a press conference on Friday, government spokesman U Zaw Htay said: “There is a border agreement. No side can build permanently within 10 meters of the border on either side.”

He said barbed-wire fences, which China said were preventing the spread of COVID-19, encroach on neutral land. “The question is about whether the fences are permanent,” he said.

Foreign ministry staff from both countries are set to discuss the issue this month and Myanmar will only allow temporary fencing, he added.

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

Myanmar said the fences in Laukkai, Muse and Hopang districts and the Wa Self-Administered Region in Shan State are temporary, made with wire, not concrete. U Zaw Htay did not mention the fences along the Kachin State border.

China has erected fences around Laiza and Parjaung in Kachin State which are under Kachin Independence Army control.

“We will pinpoint the border and China must ensure its fence does not encroach on the neutral territory unless it is only temporary. We will negotiate for that,” said U Zaw Htay.

Officials from Myanmar and China inspect near border post 125. / U Ngwe Doe

Myanmar’s military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun said no permanent building should be constructed within 10 meters of the border.

“We are cooperating with civilian agencies. The Tatmadaw [military] is cooperating in border committees to inspect the fencing,” said Maj-Gen Zaw Min Tun.

Then Burmese prime minister U Nu and his Chinese counterpart, Zhou Enlai, signed an agreement in October 1960 introducing the 10-meter rule along the 2,170km border. Border posts were erected the following year.

In January 2019, armed Chinese border guards removed Myanmar’s flag from within 5 meters of the border in Chin Shwe Haw in the Kokang Self-Administered Zone in Shan State, straining bilateral ties.

An anonymous source from Myanmar’s foreign ministry told The Irrawaddy after the incident that the border needed to be re-demarcated in the area.

Political analyst U Than Soe Naing said: “Being a superpower, China pokes its nose into everything and it looks down on its neighbors. But the fence is not the national policy from Beijing. It was done for security reasons [by the regional authorities].”

China must respect bilateral agreements and Myanmar should react if its interests are at risk, he said.

Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, has arrived in Myanmar on a two-day visit and the border is expected to be on the agenda.

Myanmar and China signed border management and cooperation agreements in 1997 to solve disputes. Myanmar says it is working to settle the issue to avoid further disputes.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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