Traders last week breathed a sigh of relief as the border crossing between Myanmar and Thailand at Myawaddy-Mae Sot reopened for trade.
The December 5 reopening was confirmed in the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper two days later. Myawaddy-Mae Sot was closed in July 2010 as a result of a conflict between the two countries over construction work being done on the Moei River by Thailand.
According to the New Light of Myanmar, the value of goods traded through Myawaddy was the second-highest in the country, behind only the 105-mile border crossing with China at Muse.
Commerce Minister U Win Myint said the government was doing everything it could to facilitate development of Myanmar’s economy. He added that the closure of the border trading point had resulted in many traders illegally importing goods, which reduced the amount of taxation the country earned and made forming an accurate picture of the value of trade difficult.
Commercial counselor at the Thai embassy Mr Prajuab Supinee said he did not know why the Myanmar authorities decided to close the border at Myawaddy, nor why they had decided to reopen it.
However, he suggested that the visit to Myanmar by Thailand’s Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, in early October may have improved relations between the two nations. He added that the closure had created problems for traders on both sides of the border.
“The closure did not stop border trade between Myanmar and Thailand because there are other places, such as Kawthoung-Ranong, where goods can be traded. But Myawaddy is the most convenient location,” the counsellor said.
Mr Prajuab Supinee added that several months after the Myawaddy-Mae Sot trading zone had been closed about 70 percent of goods traded between Thailand and Myanmar had been routed through Kawthoung-Ranong, with another 20pc going via Singapore by sea and the remaining 10pc through smaller border trading zones.
The closure is likely to reduce year-on-year bilateral trade from the US$800 million recorded in the 2010 calendar year. In the first 11 months of 2011 trade was worth $600 million, he said.