Thailand and Burma will sign three memorandums of understanding (MoUs) to foster a closer relationship between their key bordering provinces when Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha begins his official visit to the country’s western neighbour today [Thursday].
Under the three agreements, Chiang Mai and Burma’s Kentung, Prachuap Khiri Khan and Myeik, and Ranong and Kawthaung will be declared sister provinces.
The signing ceremony will be witnessed by Gen Prayut and Burmese President Thein Sein, government spokesman Yongyuth Mayalarp said yesterday.
“The MoUs will be signed by Thai and Myanmar provincial governors,” he said, adding the cooperation will allow Thailand and Burma to develop border trade.
The ceremony will be held in Burmese capital Naypyidaw today, the first day of Gen Prayut’s two-day official visit. The premier will fly to Rangoon [Yangon] tomorrow to visit Thai businessmen there.
The countries are also cooperating in the construction of a deep-sea port near the Burmese town of Dawei, traditionally known as Tavoy.
The Joint High-Level Committee between Thailand and Myanmar, which oversees the project, will convene later this year with the participation of Japan, which has expressed an interest in joining the development, Dr Yongyuth said.
Japan has proposed trilateral talks to kick-start a Japanese investment plan in the port project.
Japan’s deputy foreign minister Minoru Kiuchi and Japanese ambassador Shigekazu Sato raised the issue during a courtesy call on Gen Prayut last week.
Deputy Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said yesterday the government is keen to press ahead with the long-delayed Dawei project with the Japanese government becoming a new joint developer.
If an agreement is reached, the Japanese government will also participate with Dawei SEZ Development Co (DSEZ), said Mr Arkhom, who is also secretary-general of the National Economic and Social Development Board.
The DSEZ replaced Italian-Thai Development Plc, which had received the original concession from the Myanmar government in November 2010.
The previous government had set up a three-layered system — the JHC, the Joint Coordinating Committee and a task force — to supervise the project. Under a plan to speed up the process, the panels will be consolidated to only two levels, consisting of policy and operation.
Dr Yongyuth said that during the visit the two leaders will also discuss sustainable solutions to such problems as poverty and narcotics.
Speaking about ways to tackle drug smuggling across the border, Justice Minister Gen Paiboon Kumchaya said the ministry had briefed Gen Prayut on drug-related issues.
Gen Paiboon said he and officials from the Office of the Narcotics Control Board will visit Burma later this month for drug talks.
Narcotics officials from Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia are also expected to attend the discussions.
“Myanmar and Laos are the production bases, and Indonesia and Cambodia are used as transit routes,” the minister said.
This article was originally published in the Bangkok Post on 9 October 2014.