16 MAY 2018/ Myanmar Times
Myanmar caravan tour operators said they expect a rise in the number of travellers through two crossings on the border between India and Myanmar.
The two countries signed border crossing agreements last week that will allow tourists from both countries to pass thru Tamu-Moreh gate and Rikhawdar-Zokhawthar gate.
Under the Myanmar-India border crossing agreement, border residents in both countries can apply for one-year border crossing permits and can cross the border anytime.
The first gate located in upper Sagaing region and the second in Falam district in Chin state in Myanmar side, whereas the gates belong to Manipur and Mizoram states in India.
The cross-border travel allowance agreement was among the seven pacts signed between the two countries during the visit of Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Myanmar. She met with President U Win Myint and State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
The border agreement will allow citizens of the two countries and third country travellers to cross the borders between Myanmar and India through the two gates by obtaining visa and E-visa permit.
“The Indian caravan tours entering via the gate in the beautiful Chin state can visit the heart-shaped Rih lake,” U Kyaw Min Oo managing director of Equalink caravan tours company told The Myanmar Times.
“It (the agreement) is good for caravan tours,” he said.
U Kyaw Min Oo said Myanmar government should prepare and roll out security plans for the caravan tourists expected to influx into Myanmar in coming months.
He also said government should only allow ‘only professional and licensed agencies’ to operate such caravan tours in order to avoid accidents.
The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism said that last year it recorded a total of 117 caravan tours group comprised of 1500 people have entered the country through its border gates and most of these tours came from India.
It added that 52 caravan tours groups comprised of more than 700 people visited the country from January to April.
“Thousands of people from India have visited Rikhawdar by crossing the border gate as day-return travelers,” said a Hotels and Tourism Ministry official who asked not to be named.
The official said the recent signed border crossing agreement would further increase the traffic as it will spur border trading, aside from tourism.
Muse – Ruili, a border crossing point between China and Myanmar - used to be a very busy border crossing hotspot but the activity in the area slowed down last year.
This was because Myanmar government banned people from third country to cross the border due to security reasons, U Myo Than, managing director of Muse-based Shwe Haw Nan tours and travel, said.
“There are over 20 Muse-based travels and tours companies that have shut down since the slowdown in business,” he said. “Some Chinese people are entering the border as day-return travelers for trading not for the purpose of tourism.” For tourism businesses operating in the Muse areas, security has become a new concern as fighting between armed ethnic organizations and Tatmadaw occurred last year.
Last week, members of Ta’ang National Liberation Army allegedly launched offensives against some targets, resulting in the death of security personnel as well as civilians, posing a prolonged uncertainty for tourism businesses in the areas.
“We hope to have peace and security in Muse region as soon as possible, that is a better way for the local people to earn a living and survive,” U Myo Than added.