Myanmar’s deputy commerce minister met China’s ambassador to the country on Monday in Naypyidaw to discuss the reopening of the busy border crossing at Muse in northern Shan state for trucks carrying Myanmar produce and seafood, whose closure in December caused hardship for traders.
Deputy Commerce Minister Aung Htoo and a delegation from the Chinese embassy on Monday agreed to extend operating hours at the alternative Kyukok-Pansai border crossing and to add two additional lanes there to let trucks pass while the Kyin San Kyawt passage north of Muse township remains closed.
Minister of Commerce Than Myint, who also attended the meeting, said officially designating Kyin San Kyawt as a regular border gate would relieve traffic congestion between the countries during the watermelon and muskmelon season, Myanmar News Agency reported.
The Kyin San Kyawt crossing is used only to transport fruit and seafood export from Myanmar into China.
When Myanmar soldiers first shut down the crossing on Dec. 27 but gave no reason for the closure, more than 1,000 Myanmar trucks carrying mainly watermelon to China eventually became stranded, causing huge financial losses for farmers and fruit dealers, those involved in the business said.
But some dealers blamed the border closure on Chinese authorities responsible for inspecting the contents of the vehicles, citing a lack of manpower, though it later came to light that their use of advanced security measures such as fingerprinting and facial recognition had caused delays.
It was later disclosed that Myanmar shut down the Kyin San Kyawt checkpoint on its side of the border as a security measure after an armed group attacked a local people’s militia, the official Global New Light of Myanmar reported.
As a result, trucks had to be redirected to the Kyukok-Pansai border crossing — an unofficial passage — where they were allowed to enter the Chinese border town of Wanding in Yunnan province’s Ruili city on Dec. 29, the report said.
During the meeting, Li Xiaoyan, minister counselor from the China embassy to Myanmar, discussed efforts to officially open the Kyin San Kyawt border crossing and plan to decrease traffic congestion by increasing cargo inspection times and assigning more inspectors, Myanmar News Agency reported.
The Chinese side also said it would work with Myanmar to increase the number of border passages between the two countries and to quickly reopen the Kyin San Kyawt crossing gate, the report said.
Naing Win, chairman of the Myanmar Watermelon and Muskmelon Producers and Exporters Association, told RFA’s Myanmar Service that Myanmar’s Ministry of Commerce informed his organization that both sides agreed to increase hours at the Kyukok-Pansai border crossing and add two more lanes at the checkpoint.
RFA called the Yan Naing Htun, the ministry’s permanent secretary, for comment, but was unable to reach him.
Fruit traders meanwhile say more than 1,000 trucks have spent hours lined up in the rain to pass through the Kyukok-Pansai crossing which has only two lanes for people and goods passing in both directions between 6 a.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Only 250 trucks can enter China through the crossing each day, they said.
Reported by Thiri Min Zin for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.