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Traders in western Thailand say they are optimistic that a border crossing and lucrative trading point with Burma will reopen within three months, following nearly a year of closure.
Thailand’s overland trade with its neighbour has suffered as a result of the closure by Burmese authorities of the Mae Sot-Myawaddy Friendship Bridge in July last year. Reasons for the decision varied, with some citing anger in Naypyidaw about what it saw as Thai attempts to reroute the Moei river, while speculation also arose about Thailand’s alleged sheltering of anti-Burmese government armed groups.
A trader in the Thai border town of Mae Sot said however that the Tak Province Traders’ Association was optimistic the new Thai government would negotiate the reopening.
“The previous Democrat Party didn’t really get along with the Burmese government,” he told DVB. But following the recent election victory of the Puea Thai party, led by Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister of exiled former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, relations may improve. He added that traders along the border “are already expanding their businesses” in the hope that the crossing will soon open.
The Thai side has consistently lobbied for the bridge to be reopened. In December last year former Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win allegedly held secret talks with his Thai counterpart, Kasit Piromya, in a bid to negotiate an end to the stalemate.
Thailand’s countrywide border trade generates around $US4.3 billion each year for the developing economy, nearly a quarter of which goes through Mae Sot. The closure of the crossing is thought to have cost the country around $US2.7 million each day.