Thai investment grows in the face of 'useless' Burma sanctions

July 7, 2009 (DVB), Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has said that the international boycott of Burma would not impact on the country's ruling generals as Thailand looks to explore further investment opportunities in Burma.

The comments came during talks with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who made a brief stopover in Thailand after leaving Burma on Saturday.

Observers have said that Ban Ki-moon's visit to Burma achieved little, with his request to meet imprisoned opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi rejected twice, and the regime showing no signs of opening up dialogue with opposition groups.

Thailand currently holds the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and has repeatedly expressed its desire to see Suu Kyi freed, much to the chagrin of the Burmese generals.

Yet like China, it remains unmoved in its refusal to join with Western countries, including the United States and European Union, in implementing sanctions on the regime.

While Thailand defends this policy in the face of sanctions that are "not useful", as Vejjajiva told the meeting on Saturday, some observers say Thailand is acting to satisfy self interests.

"I think it's a combination of both," said Krasaik Choonhaven, head of the ASEAN Inter-parliamentary Myanmar Caucus.

"In Thailand there is an attempt to balance the policy that good governance should not only be applied to our own country, but our neighbouring countries.

"[Without doing so] this leads to insecurity, such as the allowance of drug producing warlords, [We should] punish those who produce or collaborate in an activity that leaves thousands of refugees in Thailand," he said.

Thailand's Board of Investment is set to send around 25 businessmen to Burma to explore new investment opportunities in four major cities, the Thai News Service reported.

Thai business investments in Burma currently amount to $US7.4 million. According to Burma's Weekly Eleven journal, total foreign investment in Burma now stands at $US15 billion, the majority of which is chanelled into Burma's oil and gas sector.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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