New Thai-Burma Border Trade Post Tipped

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 18 May 2015

RANGOON — Fully legal trading with Thailand will begin “soon” at an additional border station in southeastern Burma following a boom in overland trade between the two countries, according to a Ministry of Commerce official.

The Mao Tao border trading post in Tenasserim Division has already been operating in a partial capacity, Yan Naing Tun, the ministry’s deputy director general, told The Irrawaddy on Monday. Mao Tao has been accepting imports from Thailand since 2013, but Burmese exports have not been permitted on the Thai side.

Ministry of Commerce officials are in talks with their Thai counterparts to legalize two-way formal trade at the border crossing.

“Actually, we opened that station two years ago, but the Thai side is still working to legalize it, as there are many procedures working with other departments. Both sides’ authorities need to discuss the process further,” he said.

“We’ll announce [the Mao Tao opening] soon publically, after we have had further discussions,” Yan Naing Tun said.

Tenasserim Division already hosts two of Burma’s four formal trading points with Thailand, at Htee Khee and Kawthaung. The other two stations are at Myawaddy and Tachileik in Karen and Shan states, respectively.

Three Pagodas Pass is also viewed as a border crossing with high trade potential, though currently no official commerce between the two countries is transacted there.

Among the operational trade stations, Myawaddy-Mae Sot is the biggest trading point for the two countries, with Burma largely exporting marine products and importing foodstuffs, home appliances, construction materials, automobile parts and agricultural equipment.

Dr. Maung Maung Lay, vice chairman of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), said he welcomed more trade linkages with Burma’s two biggest overland trading partners, Thailand and China, but he added that more should be done to curb the rampant black market trading that takes place between the countries.

“For example, there is going to be a lot of informal trading along these borders, because when we’ve checked data from the Myanmar side and Thailand side, they are largely different,” he said.

“What we’re concerned about is that there are many unsuitable food and drink products coming through the borders, and also uncertified home appliances. That’s why more effort should be made to prevent illegal trading along there,” he said.

Though legal overland trade with Thailand has surged in recent years, China remains Burma’s largest trading partner. At Muse in Shan State alone, traded goods totaled more than US$5.1 billion in the 2014-15 fiscal year.

According to Ministry of Commerce data, the border trade between Thailand and Burma has increased nearly 18-fold since 2011-12, when it stood at $24.5 million. Trade rose to $144.8 million in 2012-13, $271.5 million the following year and $432.6 million in 2014-15.