China Restricts Overland Travel From Burma Due to Coronavirus

Monday, March 30, 2020

Chinese authorities have begun restricting, but not halting, travel through the Muse-Jiegao border gate separating Shan State from China, local sources said.

“They allow national ID card holders who are residents of northern Shan State to pass. They do not allow ID card holders from Mandalay or Yangon [to cross the border],” Thaung Tun, the chair of the Muse Garuna Social Association, told NMG.

The restrictions have been in effect since 2:00 p.m. on Sunday.

“We can say that they don’t allow Burmese nationals living in other states and regions outside of northern Shan State to pass through,” Thaung Tun explained, adding that the border authorities can tell where people are from based on the first numbers on their ID card, which correspond to different geographic areas.

The Chinese restrictions are in response to the coronavirus pandemic, since there are reported cases of the virus in Mandalay and Yangon, Thaung Tun said.

Burma has not restricted travel to and from China.

“If [Shan State] ID card holders come to work in China, they will be put under quarantine,” Ah Bawk, who is from northern Shan State but working across the border in the Chinese town of Ruili, said. “They already shut down three border checkpoints. I don’t know for how many days they will keep these gates closed,” she added.

Social worker Thaung Tun said that laborers from Burma are facing a number of difficulties since the Chinese restrictions were put in place.

“Migrant workers from different places in Burma are working in Muse in Shan State, and Ruili, Jiegao and Mangxi in China,” he told NMG. “According to Chinese immigration law, these workers have to get an official seal from the immigration department at the Chinese border checkpoint every week. But when they come to get this seal at the border, they are not allowed to re-enter China. These people will have troubles.”

With only confirmed 10 infections nationwide, people in Burma and abroad have speculated that the actual number of cases of COVID-19 in the country could be much higher than what is being reported. The Burmese government has linked documented cases of the virus to Tedim, Chin State, Yangon, Mandalay, and Naypyidaw.