Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Mizzima News

Home > News > Inside Burma > Thai PM’s visit to centre on border, drugs and labour

Thai PM’s visit to centre on border, drugs and labour

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva arrived in the Burmese capital this morning for a one-day official visit to Burma, with talks to centre on migrant labour, border, economic and drug-trafficking issues, he said on Thai state television before departing.

Bangkok English-language daily, The Nation, reported that he left Don Mueang military airport at 7:30 a.m. on a Royal Thai Air Force plane with Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and other government and army officials.

Abhisit said before leaving that his trip was aimed at strengthening bilateral ties and for discussing problems such as drug trafficking, another English daily newspaper, the Bangkok Post reported.

The visit also comes weeks ahead of Burma’s first elections in two decades. Bloomberg reported on October 6

In the last fiscal year trade between Burma and Thailand surpassed US$3 billion, with heavy investments in Burma’s energy sector. As the junta’s biggest trading partner, Thailand imports natural gas from the Gulf of Martaban to meet about 30 per cent of its natural gas needs, which the Thais use mostly for electricity generation.

Abhisit was also accompanied by Thai army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha and Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board secretary general Arkok Termpittayaphaisit.

Thailand has reportedly been losing 100 million baht (US$3.3 million) daily in trade since Burma closed the Myawaddy-Mae Sot border checkpoint in July in protest at Thai construction on the Moei River.

In an interview with Mizzima, Nyo Ohn Myint, a Burmese dissident in exile, stated that “I think that the Thai government need to do more bilateral economic relations with the Burmese government … the prime Minister and his team will look at the border trade … because right now Burma provides very good opportunities for its neighbouring countries in the wake of economic sanctions by the West, so that’s going to be a very great opportunity for Thailand.”

And engagement is a policy that Thailand will continue, even as its long-time ally, the United States, moves away from it.

“We don’t think sanctions have worked and we don’t think sanctions will work,” Abhisit told Bloomberg news agency at its New York headquarters last Wednesday, referring to sanctions imposed by the US and Europe that cover trade, investment and financial transactions involving the regime. “We think that engagement, frustrating at times as it can be, offers the most realistic approach.”

If Thailand failed to take advantage of such an opening, then perhaps Chinese companies and government enterprises would reap the rewards without competition, Nyo Ohn Myint said. “They [the leaders] will look at overall national security [concerns] as well as economic opportunities of Burma.”

Although Thailand is ranked first in foreign investment in Burma, it is suspected that China is in fact the largest investor because much of its investment is in shady business deals that are not officially reported or involve junta’s cronies acting as front men for the Burmese regime, according to a Mizzima report on September 20.

When Mizzima asked Nyo Ohn Myint his opinion on whether Thailand’s economic interest had prevented it from taking a strong stance on the coming elections like other Western nations, he said: “Everybody knows this election is very unfree and very undemocratic … but the Thai government has no alternative but to look at keeping up their relations because of the very long shared border.”

Dr. Michael Charney, author of A History of Modern Burma, gave Mizzima some further insights into what Thailand’s and others’ pragmatism will mean for Burma’s political development.

“An external desire for such a regime and revenues from energy export development in the country will mean China, India, and some of Burma’s more greedy neighbours in the south will validate the results of the sham elections coming up and delay the realisation of genuine democracy in the country indefinitely,” he said.


Download Mobile App