Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – A nearly month-long closure of the Thai-Burma border is set to come to an end, with multiple border checkpoints including the Friendship Bridge connecting Mae Sot on the Thai side with Myawaddy on the Burmese side, ready to resume business.
The deal was clinched with Thailand’s acquiescence to send construction materials to Burmese authorities, who are to take charge of erecting an embankment on the Burmese side of the Moei River separating the two ASEAN neighbors.
Burmese authorities ordered the closing of the Friendship Bridge in addition to around 20 other illegal border checkpoints in early July in protest over Thailand’s construction of a river wall, which Bangkok claimed was necessary to define the international border.
Thailand’s Chamber of Commerce agreed to not only supply Burma with its own materials, but to defray all expenses related to construction on the Burmese side, a Thai official told Mizzima.
Burma, it is said, will only reopen the border gates once construction materials are received.
“Thailand will pay to build a river embankment on Burma’s side to protect the river bank. They began sending bags of cement yesterday,” a resident from Myawaddy, who is close to the authorities, told Mizzima on Tuesday. Another resident of Myawaddy said Burma has thus far received 40 trucks of cement and construction materials.
Due to the lengthy border closure, the usual busy trading center of Myawaddy had become largely inactive. However, some traders bribed Burmese officials with 4,000 kyats (USD 4) and were permitted to cross over illegally.
“Casual workers were affected. Peddlers, interpreters, porters, jewelers and small furniture-businesses were seriously affected by the closure of the border checkpoints,” remarked one border resident.
A Burmese journalist in Mae Sot added, “The city has become inactive. The Mae Sot Market has become sluggish. The border closure damaged the border trade.”
According to Thai government statistics, the total value of trade via border checkpoints along the Thai-Burma border is about USD 4,300 million per annum, with the value of trade via the Mae Sot-Myawaddy road alone is estimated at USD 724 million.