High hopes for trad­ing town bor­der­ing China

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - CHAN MYA HTWE chan­myahtwe@mm­times.com – Trans­la­tion by Thiri Min Htun

Chinsh­we­haw’s once-boom­ing econ­omy col­lapsed last year dur­ing fight­ing in Kokang, but traders are now re­turn­ing, while a new eco­nomic zone could sig­nif­i­cantly boost prospects.

LAST year, it was a ghost town. Racked by the fight­ing around Laukkai, Chinsh­we­haw’s once-boom­ing econ­omy, built on its lo­ca­tion as a ma­jor trad­ing camp on the border with China, had col­lapsed as work­ers fled and shops closed down.

Fight­ing be­tween the Tat­madaw and the Myan­mar Na­tional Democ­rac­tic Al­liance Army (MNDAA) broke out in early 2015, driv­ing away the ma­sons and the sugar-cane work­ers who had come from all over Myan­mar to work for mainly Chi­nese busi­ness own­ers.

But now, though the gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to end armed con­flict through the 21st-Cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence have barely be­gun, pros­per­ity, if not yet a sta­ble peace, seems to have re­turned to the town, in north­east­ern Shan State’s trou­bled Kokang re­gion.

For the long term, the border post is a vi­tal node in China’s plan for a four-na­tion China-Myan­mar-Bangladesh-In­dia trade route.

Progress to­ward this goal is al­ready un­der way on the Chi­nese side of the border, where an eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion zone is be­ing built at nearby Lin­cang, ac­cord­ing to U Thaung Lwin, a di­rec­tor at the Chinsh­we­haw trad­ing zone.

He told The Myan­mar Times that Myan­mar and China have also dis­cussed another border trad­ing zone in Shan State’s Mine Ton/Mong Ton town­ship.

Ei­ther of the two new projects has the po­ten­tial to ri­val the border post at Muse, across from Ruili in Yun­nan province, which is cur­rently Myan­mar’s busiest trad­ing point, he said, though this de­pends on in­vest­ment into trad­ing in­fra­struc­ture.

“China sees Chinsh­we­haw as a por­tal for im­port­ing food and other goods from Myan­mar. Once the eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion zone is fin­ished, ex­ports pass­ing through Chinsh­we­haw will match those of Muse,” he said, adding that Myan­mar traders are mostly in­ter­ested in ex­port­ing, rather than im­port­ing.

The trad­ing zone at Lin­cang-Chinsh­we­haw will be a link in a vast chain that will con­nect South and South­east Asia with the Pa­cific, a process al­ready un­der way with the com­ple­tion of a road be­tween Lin­cang and Kun­ming.

A par­al­lel rail­way be­tween Kun­ming, Chinsh­we­haw and Kyauk­phyu in Myan­mar’s Rakhine State was sus­pended by Myan­mar’s pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment, but the Kun­mingLin­cang stretch of the rail­way is al­ready in place, and a Lin­cang-Chinsh­we­haw rail con­nec­tion is un­der con­struc­tion, with a com­ple­tion dead­line of 2020.

Con­struc­tion of a new bridge in Shan State’s Kun­long, across the Thanl­win River, started ear­lier this year and is ex­pected to be com­pleted next year, while a new air­port is also planned for the area.

Chinsh­we­haw border post is now the coun­try’s third-largest in terms of im­port-ex­port trade vol­ume.

‘Ex­ports pass­ing through Chinsh­we­haw will match those of Muse.’ U Thaung Lwin Chinsh­we­haw trad­ing zone

Agri­cul­tural and fish­eries pro­duce such as beans, corn, se­same and eels are ex­ported to China through the gate, which yields about US$50 mil­lion a month in pro­ceeds on av­er­age.

In the 2016-17 fi­nan­cial year so far, Muse has pro­cessed about US$1.135 bil­lion in trade. Myan­mar’s sec­ond­bus­i­est border post is be­tween Myawady and Mae Sot in Thai­land, which has seen more than $206 mil­lion in trade this year while Chinsh­we­haw has pro­cessed around $144 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Min­istry of Com­merce data.

Photo: Zarni Phyo

The once-bustling trad­ing town of Chinsh­we­haw was de­serted when con­flict broke out last year.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Myanmar

© PressReader. All rights reserved.