Daily News-June 24 - 2001- Sunday

  • Burma-Thailand Border Checkpoint Reopens
  • Border joy after long closure
  • Burma bans import, breeding of African catfish to protect local fish strains
  • Exports to Burma dip but imports jump at Mae Sot-Myawaddy border crossing

  • Burma-Thailand Border Checkpoint Reopens

    Rangoon (AP)- - A key border checkpoint linking eastern Burma and northern Thailand reopened Sunday, more than four months after it was closed due to border tension, a Burmese military official said.

    The crossing was opened between the town of Tachilek and the northern Thai town of Mae Sai, and border trade has resumed, the official said on customary condition of anonymity.

    The crossing is one of the three main checkpoints along the 1,250-mile Thai-Burmese border. Tachilek is 310 miles northeast of Rangoon, the capital of Burma.

    Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra visited Burma last week seeking to improve relations, which had reached their lowest point in years after clashes between the two countries' armies in February.

    Several civilians in both towns were killed by shelling.

    Thaksin agreed to a Burma's request that Thailand lift a ban on exports through Mae Sai, including fuel, rice and construction material through Mae Sai. The ban was enacted in February to restrict the flow of supplies to the Burmese military and ethnic Wa rebels accused of smuggling illegal drugs into Thailand.
    Border joy after long closure

    Source : The Nation

    An air of celebration isexpected to mark the reopening of the Mae Sai-Tachilek border crossing this morning and trade - including banned strategic goods - should again be in full swing by noon.

    The reopening will signify renewed ties between Thailand and Burma, which until very recently have been marred by months of clashes, said Thai officials attending the Township Border Committee yesterday.

    The meeting also agreed that three temporary checkpoints at Sai Lom Choi, Tha Sai and Tha Pangha would also be opened to facilitate cross-border trade and the movement of people.

    Thailand agreed to lift its ban on rice, medicine, fuel and vehicle parts imposed after an outbreak of cross-border shelling in February.

    The issue of 27 Thai products banned by the Burmese authorities was not discussed in detail, but the Burmese promised to relax the measure so that trade could return to its normal level.

    Before the TBC met, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra sent a letter to the Thai delegation stressing the need to strengthen relations in order to solve the border and drugs problems. Thaksin also instructed the TBC to meet more regularly to improve mutual understanding.

    During his recent visit to Burma, Thaksin reached an agreement with his Burmese counterpart that the Mae Sai-Tachilek checkpoint should be opened within a week without any conditions attached.

    Domesak Kamsaisaeng, head of the Thai TBC coordinating team, said the meeting could not take place in Mae Sai out of concern for a protest by local villagers about
    the lignite electricity plant in Tachilek. Meanwhile, a press van was abruptly stopped at the middle of the bridge connecting the two countries by Burmese security officials citing an order from the Tachilek district chief.

    After three hours of discussion, officials from both countries put on a rare show of amity by gathering for a group photograph at the checkpoint holding hands and cheering.

    The move stunned villagers on both sides, who had had to endure over four months of tense border conflict.

    "It is a good starting point for the bilateral relationship ," said Colonel Wanthip Wongwai, who co-chaired the TBC with Lt-Colonel Aye Soe from Burma. "We have agreed to meet more often".

    Mae Sai district chief Decha Satthapol said the opening ceremony of the checkpoint would be marked by cultural shows and musical performances.

    Chairman of Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce Sermchai Kittirattanapaibul expressed optimism about the resumption of full border trade, saying that the ties would improve in the long term.
    Burma bans import, breeding of African catfish to protect local fish strains

    Source : Radio Myanmar, Rangoon

    In accord with the Fisheries Law, the Fisheries Department under the Ministry of Livestock Breeding and Fisheries has been encouraging the systematic management, hatching, production, and development of fisheries.

    It has been learned that imported African catfish can destroy natural resources and cause extinction of local fish strains. Thus the Fisheries Department has issued Notification No 5/2001 today banning the import, hatching, breeding, reproduction, storage, and sale of African catfish [Clarias Gariepinus].

    Action will be taken against those who violate the restrictions in the notification in accord with the Fisheries Law.
    Exports to Burma dip but imports jump at Mae Sot-Myawaddy border crossing

    Source : Bangkok Post

    The value of Thai exports to Burma through the Mae Sot-Myawaddy border crossing fell year-on-year by 14% to 911 million baht from 1,058.8 million in the first five months of this year. In the same period, imports from Burma almost tripled to 747.7 million baht from 261 million.

    Trading sources in Mae Sot attributed the substantial drop to Burma's increased restrictions on products imported from Thailand to stem tax evasion since last November.

    More than 10 Burmese officials based in Myawaddy had been transferred for allegedly having vested interests in border trade, said the sources.

    Several Burmese traders had been jailed and their products smuggled from Thailand were either impounded or destroyed, the sources said.

    On top of the stringent restrictions, Rangoon also launched a concerted campaign urging Burmese people to boycott Thai goods. Many shops in Burma reportedly carried signs telling their customers that no Thai products were available on sale.

    As relations between the two countries worsened following clashes between the two armies, trade restrictions were tightened further.

    In retaliation, Thailand put a ban on the exports of rice, medicines, fuel, vehicles and auto parts categorised as strategic products to Burma. All temporary border checkpoints in Tak province bordering Burma were also closed.

    Suchart Triratwattana, vice-president of the Tak chamber of commerce, said Thai products that used to command a 30-40% share in the Burmese market had almost completely lost out to goods from China, South Korea and Malaysia.

    Mr Suchart expressed hope that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's visit to Burma early this week would help mend fences with the Rangoon government and contribute to the resumption of border trade between the two countries.