Border trade between Thailand and Burma has slumped after the Burmese government tightened import and export rules to deal with rising inflation and soaring diesel prices. At least 20 Burmese merchants in Myawaddy, which is close to Taks Mae Sot district, have been arrested by Burmese officials who seized goods they had brought from Thailand.
The tough control also saw products abandoned along the border because they are no longer allowed to be sold in Burmese cities.
In the past 2-3 months, the volume of trade has fallen from one billion baht to 700 million baht a month,' said Tak Chamber of Commerce chairman Ampon Chatchaiyareuk.
A Burmese merchant said he was told the stricter rules were ordered by Gen Maung Aye, second-in-line in the Burmese junta.
He had also learned that some Burmese customs officials conspired with traders to make money from illegal trades. But those officials had already been replaced, he said.
A Thai customs official in Chiang Rais Mae Sai district, opposite Tachilek, confirmed that new officials were now working at border trade areas in Burma, including Tachilek.
Chuchai Udompote said the political instability in Thailand had compounded the trade problem due to lack of a clear border policy direction.
Mr Ampon said the economic problems in Burma had also impacted on its trade with Thailand. The kyat was weak against the baht while inflation had risen in Burma.
The soaring diesel price had increased prices, forcing Burmese merchants to switch to cheaper goods from China.
The closure for repairs of the Friendship bridge over the Moei river, the natural boundary, had also disrupted freight.
There will be a meeting among countries of the Greater Mekong Sub-region Project in Tak this Saturday. Solutions to solve the sluggish border trade between the two countries would be proposed at the meeting, Mr Ampon said.
Bangkok Post Thu 27 Jul 2006