Thai and Burmese FM hold secret talks

Burma’s foreign minister Nyan Win yesterday travelled to the border town of Tachilek to meet with his Thai counterpart in what observers claim may be an attempt to negotiate the re-opening of a key border crossing further south.

The three-hour meeting was held Monday morning at the Regina Hotel in Tachilek, which also acts a major trading point between the two countries, although it was the issue of the closed Friendship Bridge in Mae Sot that likely topped the agenda.

Nyan Win was reportedly joined by a team of 20 Burmese officials, including business and trade minister, Tin Naing Thein, temporary border trade director general, Aung Naing Oo, and the Burmese ambassador to Thailand, Kyi Thein. Thai foreign minister Kasit Piromya brought with him a 15-strong delegation.

A Thai journalist from Channel 3 followed the Thai team to the airport in nearby Chiang Rai, but Kasit reportedly refused to answer his questions.

The closure of the Mae Sot crossing by Burmese authorities in July has angered Thailand. Burma officially claims the decision was made over safety concerns for tourists in its border town of Myawaddy, while it is thought the real reason lies behind Thailand’s construction of a defensive wall on its side of the Moei river.

Thailand’s countrywide border trade generates around US$4.3 billion each year for the developing economy. According to TTR Weekly, Thailand is losing an estimated US$2.7 million day while the Mae Sot crossing is closed.

Bangkok has also earmarked around $US38.6 million to develop a special economic zone in the Mae Sot-Myawaddy region, although it is unclear whether the latest dispute will have any impact on this.

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