With the border between Burma and Thailand closed for the last two months because of the COVID-19 lockdown, businesses in eastern Shan State are struggling to survive.
The Thai government closed the Friendship Bridge between Tachileik and Mai Sai in Thailand on March 23 after a case was discovered in the Burmese border town.
Sai Num Twe, the chairperson for the Tachileik branch of the Shan National League for Democracy, said they’re waiting for Thailand to open their side of the bridge. “Thailand announced that the lockdown will go until the end of May. Specifically, when the border will open up again we’ll just have to wait to see what the Thai government decides to do,” Sai Num Twe said.
Goods are still being transported across the Moei River on the Friendship Bridge No. 2 between the Thai border town Mae Sot and Myawaddy. Nang Hom, a trader based in Tachileik township, told SHAN the toll fee for the Friendship Bridge No. 2 is high. She said there’s still no word when the original Friendship Bridge on the Moei River will open for commuters.
Recently, a Burmese migrant illegally crossed the border from Mai Sai to Tachileik. After checking into a hotel, the returning worker exhibited symptoms similar to COVID-19. The incident prompted the local government to enact a curfew in Tachileik.
“It was already a bit tense before authorities caught the illegal returner” now the markets and all the shops need to be closed by 4 pm. Typically a bustling trade centre, during the COVID-19 pandemic the streets of Tachileik are mostly empty.
According to the Ministry of Health and Sports, there are 180 confirmed cases in the country, while 76 have recovered and six people have died from the virus.
Translated by Sai Seng Han