“Trading is also not working well, and food prices have soared. Transportation is difficult. Traders have to pay taxes to all the groups. There are many groups along the roads. The people have to pay taxes to Kachin, Palaung, Shan and Kokang forces.” A Pansai local

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An interview with a Pansai local about livelihood difficulties of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who have returned to their homes and the recruitment of locals as new soldiers by the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) in MNDAA-controlled Pansai (Kyu Kok).

The MNDAA has seized and controlled Pansai (Kyu Kok) in Muse Township of Shan State since 2 November 2023 during “Operation 1027”. Pansai (Kyu Kok) on the Myanmar-China border is made up of five wards. According to the records of the General Administration Department in 2019, there are more than 1,500 households and a population of about 10,000 in Pansai (Kyu Kok). It is home to Shan, Kachin, Kokang and Burmese ethnics.

Currently, Pansai (Kyu Kok) town is included in Monekoe District which is one of four districts under the Special Region (1) designated by the Kokang Army-MNDAA. The MNDAA is carrying out census-taking for the resumption of the administrative mechanism. According to Pansai residents, the MNDAA called up the boys and women aged above 15 and above on 4 December.

On 2 February, nearly 80 shops in Pansai Myoma market were burnt to ashes due to an electric short circuit. The estimated loss amounted to 2,379,400 Chinese yuan (around one billion Myanmar kyat), the Kokang Media reported on 6 February.

The Shan News interviewed a Pansai local about livelihood difficulties of IDPs who returned to their homes and the recruitment of locals as new soldiers by the MNDAA in MNDAA-controlled Pansai (Kyu Kok).

Q: How is the situation after the Kokang Army- MNDAA took control of Pansai on 2 November?

A: The MNDAA imposed a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew three or four days after it took control of the town. Since then, merchants have had no chance to travel. They had to send goods from Monekoe to Pansai. The people from Monekoe sold rice, edible oil, noodle, snacks and fruits. What local people just need is to be able to sell and do trading easily. After the Kokang force has taken control of the town, there is no more trading. Until now, we can’t go freely. We can go nowhere. The transportation between Pansai and Muse remains difficult. Soon after they took control, Chinese schools were forced to reopen. The schools are closed as it coincides with the Chinese New Year.

Electricity is no longer available on the Myanmar side. When the region was under the administration of the military council, the Myanmar side distributed power from Shweli to Pansai through Namkham-Muse. Now power is restored with the use of already-installed power meters as the Kokang army installs power line through Wantain of China. Subscribers have to deposit an installation fee of 800 Chinese yuan for the supply of power. Some people have to pay 1,000 Chinese yuan. The prices of electricity between Myanmar and China are totally different. The electricity bill was not expensive when the Myanmar side had access to power. The electricity bill cost Ks 50 per unit. But now, China’s electricity price amonuts to 2 yuan per unit (which is equivalent to over 600 Ks). The people are complaining about higher electricity prices. The people are facing difficulties due to the lack of trading, higher power bills and taxes.

Q: Have the IDPs who fled Pansai during “Operation 1027” returned home? What percentage of IDPs have returned home?

A: When fighting took place, most of the people from towns and villages fled to Muse and China. Now, about two-thirds of IDPs returned home. However, some IDPs have not returned home. Most of the IDPs who returned home were those who stayed behind look after their homes and the elderly. Most youths are working in Ruili and Mansi as there are no jobs here while some youths are moving to Yangon and Mandalay to find employment opportunities.

Q: Does the Kokang army seal off and seize the houses of people who don’t dare to return home?

A: The Kokang army has sealed off and seized government departments and offices. However, they did not seal off the houses of ordinary people. They sealed off the houses of Bamar people who did not return home and the houses hired for the Kyar Phyant (online gambling).

Q: On 4 December, a video of the Kokang Army calling a meeting in Pansai to recruit both boys and girls went viral online. After that, how is the recruitment situation of the Kokang Army in Pansai?

A: After the Kokang army has entered the town, Shan and Kachin people who have joined Shan and Kachin armed forces are not included in the recruitment list. The Kokang army recruits other ethnics. One person per house has to join the Kokang army as militia members. They did not recruit Burmese ethnics. Burmese ethnics who have long been living in Pansai are allowed to stay there. The Kokang army doesn’t allow the new Burmese ethnics to enter the town. The Kokang army has placed a complete ban on Bamar ethnics for fear that they would spy on the Kokang army. As there is no fighting now, the Kokang army orders militia members to stand guard on the town and soldiers to fight on the frontline. I don’t know what will happen if the Kokang army needs recruits.

Q: What is the situation regarding the supply of electricity from China by the Kokang Army MNDAA?

A: The supply of electricity is done by Chinese bosses from Pansai. They have to pay additional taxes to the Kokang army. The power distribution is carried out by buying electricity from China. The electricity bills go to the Chinese bosses. The electricity bill of Ks-600 is equally shared between China and the Kokang army. The rest goes to the Chinese bosses. The Kokang army asks for the permission from China for the supply of power. The Kokang army doesn’t provide service. Power is distributed to the town by the Chinese bosses who have won the Kokang army’s bid for power distribution.

Q: What are the current commodity prices and living conditions of the people in Pansai?

A: All the routes are closed after the Kokang army seized control of Pansai. All the people here are facing difficulties. Not only the prices of foods such as rice and edible oil but also the prices of fuel oils have gone up. Daily earners are in big trouble. Some foodstuffs are carried through Lashio and Muse. Now there is no inflow of foodstuff from Lashio and Muse. The prices of foodstuffs have skyrocketed. In Myanmar, the electricity bill was 35 Kyat per unit. The bill for two units amounted to Ks-70. Now the bill has increased to more than 600 Ks per unit after the supply of electricity from China. The price has gone up more than 5 times. Trading is also not working well, and food prices have soared. Transportation is difficult. Traders have to pay taxes to all the groups. There are many groups along the roads. The people have to pay taxes to Kachin, Palaung, Shan and Kokang forces. The people in town are in big trouble as commodity prices have skyrocketed. The Kokang army asks the people to cook food. Those who are unable to do so have to pay 100 Chinese yuan which is equivalent to over Ks-50,000. The households which can’t go there have to send a person as a substitute. The people have to cook rice and curry, you have to take turns 7 days a week.

Q: Is the Kokang army taking a census in Pansai? How does the administrative mechanism operate there?

A: Now census-taking is taking place. They themselves don’t take it. They ask ten-household and 100-household heads to take census. They haven’t checked the houses yet. Parents did not dare to give the real information about their children because they were afraid that their children would be forced to join the army. In Pansai, there is no specific announcement about the operation of administrative mechanism yet. Because the Pansai is placed under the Monekoe. Their heads are doing their office work in Monekoe. The Kokang army has put restrictions on building new houses, real estate transactions and timber logging. They have directed shop owners not to sell food and fuel at higher prices. Traders had to buy goods at higher prices. They find it difficult to sell them if they don’t get original prices. The people have to bear the brunt of it. At around 9:30 am on 11 February, the Kokang army ordered the people to attend the meeting, one person per house in Ward-3. The persons who possess guns are ordered to hand over guns to the Kokang army.

They said the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP) soldiers equipped with arms and dressed in military uniform are not allowed to enter the town. The KIA and SSPP soldiers in civilian clothes can enter the town. Action will be taken against armed soldiers dressed in military uniform. The people in the town who have guns are asked to hand over their guns as quickly as possible. At the meeting, they said that if they found arms in the door-to-door inspection, those who possess arms would be severely punished. The person who can’t cook rice for them has to pay a fine of 100 Chinese yuan (which is equivalent to Ks 50,000) per week. One person per house must join the militia force. The people have to alternatively guard their administrative office by wearing the military uniform. The people have to stop their works and go there. Some people are afraid to go to war. The people inevitably have to follow the order. The people have to stand guard free of charge. The people have to do it unavoidably as they have nothing to rely on.

Q: What is the situation on the China-Myanmar border in Pansai? How does import and export work?

A: There is an entrance to China. But they haven’t opened it yet. After the capture of Pansai, the Kokang army allows sick persons and the persons with serious health condition, to go to China for treatment. Normally, the people are not allowed to go in and out. For the Kokang people, foodstuffs such as rice, oil, potatoes and noodles are brought out from Wantain on the Chinese side through the border gate. Ordinary people are not allowed to do so. The people have to carry goods via Monekoe. Transportation is banned both in China and Myanmar. The people have to carry goods through the border fence. They do trading at the border fence. Cargo trucks are banned.

Q: What kind of livelihood difficulties do the people face under the control of the MNDAA during the current lull in the fighting?

A: People doing trading in the town are safe. The farmers don’t dare to go to their plantations as they fear that they may step on landmines. They face such difficulties. Passenger bus drivers can’t go to Muse, Namkham and Lashio. The scarcity of goods hampers trading. Before fighting, the people from Muse, Namkham, Monepaw and Monekoe came to Pansai market to sell their goods. We can’t purchase a wide variety of goods as they can’t come here. The market is devoid of buyers and sellers.

Q: Fighting is calm now. However, only a few areas of downtown Muse is under the control of the junta. May I know the people’s concerns and expectations over the possible resumption of fighting in Pansai?

A: The people who remain in downtown are living in fear as fighting may erupt at any time. Despite the lull in fighting, the people have dug trenches at their homes. It aims to hide in the trenches when the jet fighters come. It is still uncertain whether the Kokang army will really be able to hold on to the town or when the military council will come back to fight. Even in Muse, the military council troops are trapped., the Arakan Army (AA) is on standby on the way to105th mile. The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) is on standby in Sallant on the way to Namkham. The MNDAA is on standby in Pansai. The army sends rations by plane once a week. As the country is not in a good condition, I can’t be sure what will happen next. The Kokang army has not really reached a stable condition yet. So, the Kokang army has not been able to actually establish its policies.

Sent by Shan News

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