Mae Sot-Myawaddy border closure affects border trade: Thai minister

BANGKOK, July 19 – The continued closure of the Thai-Myanmar border at the Mae Sot-Myawaddy bridge in Tak province is affecting border trade, Thai Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot said Monday, adding that he will visit Myanmar for talks on the issue on Wednesday.

Due to the ongoing closure of the Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge and more than 20 ports along the Moei River to protest Thailand’s riverbank protection construction, trade and transport between Myanmar and Thailand remains at a standstill.

Mr Alongkorn said he would visit the neighbouring country of Myanmar Wednesday and plans to discuss the issue for better understanding with the Myanmar authorities.

However, he commented that the new misunderstanding over the river bank protection construction which led to the border closure should not have occurred. He said the situation reflects the negligence of concerned agencies.

Basically, any construction project along the border had to be jointly discussed and approved by the border committee of the two countries before beginning the work, the Thai minister said.

Mr Alongkorn said the construction works carried out on the Thai side of the river negatively affected Thai-Myanmar relations as well as major policies set to be implemented soon.

The Thai government planned to push the Mae Sot-Myawaddy border area to be a special economic zone in the near future.

As the total value of the border trade countrywide was at around Bt140 billion (nearly US$4.3 billion) per year, the agencies involved should beware of any action which might affect the border trade, the minister said.

The border trade and transport at the Mae Sot-Myawaddy border has been suspended since Myanmar officials shut the border at the Thai-Myanmar
Friendship Bridge crossing the Moei River and at over 20 cross-border trading ports since July 12.

It is believed that Myanmar authorities were unhappy with building Thai river bank protection because the construction caused soil and rocks to fall into the river.

In an attempt to end the misunderstanding with Myanmar, Thailand is placing its hope on the efforts of the Thai-Myanmar Township Border Committee (TBC). (MCOT)