Border gate reopens after 3-year closure

Officials have unexpectedly opened the Burmese side of the Three Pagodas Pass border crossing with Thailand more than three years after it was closed.

Merchandise can now be legally transported between the town and Thailand’s Sangkhla Buri, one trader said, adding that the reopening had caught them by surprise.

The majority of the goods, such as lead and furniture, that used to pass through the crossing were legal, he said, although its closure had fuelled a clandestine trade in unreported merchandise.

Burmese officials are now reportedly collecting $US1 per person and $US1.30 per car crossing over from Thailand, while it is free for Burmese heading into Thailand.

The Three Pagodas Pass, or Payathonzu in Burmese, is not an essential trade point for the two countries, given that access routes on the Burmese side of the border from Rangoon and Mandalay are in poor condition.

Although locals claim the reopening was unexpected, it comes days after secret talks were held between Burmese foreign minister Nyan Win and his Thai counterpart, Kasit Piromya.

There had been speculation that the Monday meeting in the Burmese town of Tachilek would focus on negotiations over the reopening of the key Mae Sot crossing, which was closed in July following a dispute over Thailand’s construction of defensive walls on its side of the Moei river.

Thailand’s countrywide border trade generates around US$4.3 billion each year for the developing economy. There are upwards of 20 official and unofficial trade points along its border with Burma.

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