Former Thai PM Chavalit Discusses Investment in Naypyidaw

By Saw Yan Naing 8 May 2013

Former Thai Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh paid a visit to Naypyidaw this week, where he talked about opportunities to invest in Burma with Vice President Sai Mauk Kham.

According to the website of Burma’s President Office, Chavalit in a meeting on Tuesday discussed investment prospects and business and development projects in Burma’s border territories, which are home to most of the nation’s ethnic minorities.

Along with Sai Mauk Kham, the Thai delegation led by Chavalit also met with Deputy Foreign Minister Thant Kyaw, Deputy Commerce Minister Pwint Sann and other officials from the President’s Office.

The online report read: “The two parties have amicably and openly exchanged talks about investment plans in order to develop Burma’s rural areas and the life of civilians who live in these regions.”

Observers said on Wednesday that Chavalit doesn’t currently play a significant role in Thai politics, but does have Thai business interests that may be eyeing Burma.

In January of this year, a Thai business delegation led by Chavalit also visited southern Burma’s Mon State, where they discussed plans to upgrade an airport in Moulmein, the state capital, with Burmese officials including Mon State’s chief minister, Ohn Myint.

Chavalit at that time told senior Burmese officials that Thailand would invest US $20 billion in Burma’s economy. Chavalit expressed his interest in investing in hotels, hospitals, roads, power plants and agriculture. He also asked Ohn Myint provide suggestions as to where else Thailand might invest in Burma.

A source close to authorities in Mon State said in January that the plan to improve the airport in Moulmein was intended to pave the way for more direct flights between Burma and Thailand.

The Thai delegation and Burmese authorities in Mon State also agreed to later sign a Memorandum of Understanding concerning development projects, and an invitation for Mon State authorities and businessmen to visit Thailand to observe business there is also expected in future.

Soon after Chavalit’s trip to Mon State, the Thai private budget airline Nok Air announced that it would officially start flying a route from the Thai border town of Mae Sot to Moulmein beginning in July.

Chavalit also visited Burma in November 2009. The retired general is a controversial figure among Burmese dissidents who say he was a backer of Burma’s military junta government.

He told Bangkok-based English newspaper The Bangkok Post at that time that he had met with the former junta’s chief, Than Shwe, and current Burma President Thein Sein, who served then as a general. Chavalit said he admired Than Shwe, describing their relationship as brotherly.

In his second-ever visit to Burma in 1989, Chavalit agreed to repatriate Burmese student activists and dissidents who fled Burma for Thailand after the brutal crackdown on the 1988 popular uprising. He also once said that the Thai government was wrong to condemn the former Burmese regime over opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest.