Con­flict fears leave Muse trade stilted

The Myanmar Times - - Business - CHAN MYA HTWE chan­myahtwe@mm­times.com

SE­CU­RITY fears are still haunt­ing the Muse bor­der post, slow­ing vi­tal trade to a trickle amid a cli­mate of fear. The of­fi­cial re­sump­tion of trad­ing has brought lit­tle re­lief, lo­cal mer­chants say.

Muse was shaken by an out­break of fight­ing that be­gan on Novem­ber 20 when an al­liance made up of sol­diers from the Ta’ang Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army, the Kachin In­de­pen­dence Army, the Myan­mar Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance Army and the Arakan Army launched an at­tack on mil­i­tary and po­lice tar­gets.

Thousands of civil­ians have been dis­placed in­ter­nally or fled across the bor­der to China. As of Novem­ber 30, 16 Myan­mar gov­ern­ment se­cu­rity per­son­nel and civil­ians had been killed, ac­cord­ing to U Zaw Min, head of the Muse dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tion. One civil­ian was in­jured on Novem­ber 28 when se­cu­rity forces fired on him near the site of one of sev­eral ex­plo­sions in Muse town­ship.

“Tat­madaw se­cu­rity forces around the blast ar­eas are car­ry­ing out clear­ance of the ter­ri­to­ries,” the Min­istry of De­fence an­nounced on Novem­ber 29.

Eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity in the trad­ing zone, a key over­land route for many Myan­mar ex­porters, re­mains scant. Though lo­cal banks have re­opened they close early and lack suf­fi­cient funds, while the rental cost of ve­hi­cles has risen sharply.

Trader Ko Lin Yaung Htein said, “Trad­ing has re­sumed, but we have to go to Muse town­ship of­fice to get the nec­es­sary cus­toms doc­u­ments be­cause the cus­toms of­fi­cers are afraid of more vi­o­lence. The 105 mile of­fice of Myan­mar Eco­nomic Bank also dare not open as they can­not guar­an­tee se­cu­rity.”

Some banks in Muse have re­opened, but close at noon, and some re­strict with­drawals be­cause they lack suf­fi­cient funds in Myan­mar kyat, said Ko Lin Yaung Htein, adding that lo­cal res­i­dents in Muse did not dare to leave their homes since the at­tacks.

A Min­istry of Com­merce spokesper­son for the Muse 105 mile zone, who asked to re­main anony­mous, said trade vol­ume at the nor­mally bustling post was down to a few hun­dred trucks a day, car­ry­ing only US$2 or $3 mil­lion worth of goods. Over 1000 trucks and around $10 mil­lion worth of goods typ­i­cally pass through the zone ev­ery day, ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Com­merce.

Traders of per­ish­able goods like fruit and seafood lost stock in the days im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing the ini­tial at­tack when trade was frozen. Some traders have since turned to al­ter­na­tive ex­port routes to China, in­clud­ing the Bhamo route in Kachin State. But mer­chants and agri­cul­tural in­dus­try of­fi­cials have warned that prices for agri­cul­tural goods in the lo­cal mar­ket could slump if trad­ing at the 105 mile zone is cur­tailed for a long pe­riod of time.

“Trad­ing re­sumed on Novem­ber 26-27,” said Man­dalay rice trader U Myint Lwin. “But still some driv­ers dare not go. [to Muse].” He es­ti­mated that trade vol­ume was still down by 90 per­cent.

Truck driver Ko Moe Oo said the po­lice pres­ence at the bor­der gate had in­creased and that he had been go­ing back and forth for sev­eral days now.

“There’s no prob­lem,” he said. “The po­lice are there for se­cu­rity. Trucks were ar­riv­ing as of Novem­ber 29, with fruit de­liv­er­ies pass­ing through daily. We can drive on the bridge, but there are de­lays on the other side be­cause there’s a hole in the road.”

The vi­o­lence of caused dam­age to the in­dia and Nant Pot bridges on the road to Man­dalay from 105 mile post, con­sid­er­ably slow­ing traf­fic.

Wa­ter­melon trader Sai Khin Maung said truck rental fees had dou­bled, from K600,000 or K700,000 to K1.3 mil­lion, but it was still dif­fi­cult to find ve­hi­cles.

“Peo­ple don’t dare to go Muse 105 mile from Man­dalay. Sugar, maize and rice can’t pass by that route. They go via the Chin Shwe Haw route. But en­try into Myan­mar from Sh­weli China is blocked.”

He said about 1000 tonnes a day of agri­cul­tural pro­duce passed from Man­dalay into China via the Chin Shwe Haw route. But trade in other goods was re­duced. – Trans­la­tion by Emoon, Khine

Thazin Han and San Layy

Photo: AFP

A mem­ber of the Kachin In­de­pen­dence Army helps a fel­low sol­dier light a cig­a­rette dur­ing a break in Oc­to­ber.

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