The Kachin State government has ordered civilians not to block trucks transporting tissue culture bananas to China, which continue to travel to and from Burma through the Kambaiti border gate.
Four banana trucks entered Kachin State from China on May 13, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has led to a block on cross-border travel from Burma to China. After the Civilian Vehicle Association tried to stop the vehicles from proceeding, the Kachin State government intervened.
“They don’t need to block these trucks. There are differences between Chinese drivers and Burmese drivers as well as the capacity of the trucks,” Zaw Zaw, head of the Kachin State government office, told KNG.
He said that during an observatory trip to the border on April 19, he witnessed drivers from China remaining in their trucks for the duration of the trip, including eating and relieving themselves in the vehicles, and having others load the trucks.
“They were very disciplined. Our drivers do not follow guidelines,” Zaw Zaw added. “Chinese truck drivers are used to carrying bananas through the border area. Chinese authorities have pointed out the weaknesses of Burmese drivers from central Burma, because they didn’t follow guidelines amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The government spokesperson said that drivers from China undergo medical checks before coming to Burma.
More than 90 trucks are expected to come to Burma in the first batch beginning on May 13, and more than 200 would be in the second batch, he explained.
Aung Si, a truck owner based in Burma, said that the new one-sided border traffic had started even though the Border Truck Associations from both China and Burma had agreed to put just 200 trucks into use on each side of the border during the pandemic. The agreement to limit the number of vehicles was reportedly made on April 25.
“The current situation is unfair within the border trading system. Everybody sees the injustice on the ground,” he said. “It is easy for Chinese drivers to come to Burma at the moment, just like it was before the outbreak of COVID-19.”
He urged the authorities to reconsider the current allowances, because truck drivers in Burma have been unable to work as a result.
Too, the vice chairperson of the Border Transport Service Association, said that the trucks from China “came suddenly” so the group tried to block them, unsure if they had been allowed to operate in Burma.
According to drivers, there are currently 246 vehicles in the Kambaiti border area, with a list of the drivers sent to the respective government ministries. The trucks are picking up goods in Kachin State, a job that Burmese drivers say that they could be doing.