Closure of China Border Due to Coronavirus Affects Rural Kachin Townships
02/28/2020 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) – The fast-spreading Coronavirus in China has pushed Beijing to close borders inside and around the country. Myanmar’s northern Kachin state, which heavily depends on trade with China, is now suffering from the consequences of closed borders.
According to Radio Free Asia (RFA), two townships in Kachin state face shortages of food staples, including rice, and rising prices, until China opens the border crossings, currently closed until the annual monsoon season begins in late May, said a local lawmaker.
Khaw Marwu, a legislator from the Lisu National Development Party told RFA that more than 20,000 residents of Chipwi and Hsawlaw townships will face shortages from now. “All the residents of Hsawlaw and most of the ones in Chipwi rely on rice imports from China, and it is very difficult to transport goods from Myanmar, because the border gates are now all closed on account of the coronavirus outbreak. It has stopped the transport of both rice and passengers,” he said.
Khaung Joon, a pastor from the border town of Hsawlaw, said several border crossings have been closed. “Some residents who are visiting the other side of the border are now stranded,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service. “The military has restricted the transport of rice and fuel oil, though some people recently have begun to trade these commodities along with others.”
The price of rice and fuel meanwhile have skyrocketed. According to Khaung Joon, a bag of the grain equal to three buckets costs 75,000 kyats (U.S. $50), while enough diesel to fill a 14-gallon tank costs 120,000 kyats (U.S. $80).
Although the government has given permission to transport the rice from other areas, and shipment can be delivered while the roads are still accessible, once monsoon season comes, and if the borders remain closed, these villagers will face difficulties again.
The resource-rich Kachin state is mostly inhabited by ethnic Kachin, a Christian-majority group that often faces persecution from the Burmese Army and gets caught up in fighting between the Kachin Independence Army and the Burmese Army. The ongoing conflicts since 2011 has displaced more than 100,000 Kachin people and many continue to live in IDP camps to this day.
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