Thai-Burmese Border Dispute Holds Up Trading Post

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 10 June 2016

RANGOON — A long-delayed border trading post at Three Pagodas Pass between Burma and Thailand will not open until a dispute over border demarcation is finally resolved between the two countries, Minister of Commerce Than Myint told Burma’s Lower House of Parliament on Thursday.

Responding to a question raised by lawmaker Saw Tin Win of Kyainseikgyi Township in Karen State, where the disputed border is situated, minister Than Myint explained that the border had not yet been “demarcated accurately in line with international law.”

Than Myint said that proceeding with the border post would amount to Burma accepting the current line of control, and therefore losing parts of its territory to Thailand.

Non-state armed groups have previously held the vicinity of Three Pagodas Pass in the Karen hills, but it is now under the control of the Burmese government. However, Thailand had already constructed buildings as well as a highway in what the Burmese government firmly considers its own territory.

Thailand had proposed building a trading post and upgrading the border gate to purportedly stimulate trade and development, but the Burmese government rejected the proposal, the state-owned New Light of Myanmar reported on Friday.

Lawmaker Saw Tin Win confirmed that 36 miles of highway had been constructed by Thailand up to its present line of control.

“The border trading post has been suspended since 2007 due to the dispute. The foreign minister re-examined the situation in 2013 and [cited no breakthroughs]. But, on Monday the [New Light of Myanmar] reported that the trading post is now expected to be open in 2020,” Saw Tin Win told The Irrawaddy.

Although the vicinity of the pass is now under Burmese government control, non-state ethnic armed groups including the Karen National Union, the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army and the New Mon State Party still control large areas to the north and south, in Karen and Mon states.

Dr. Soe Tun, chairman of the Automobile Dealers Association, said that illegal trade would continue to flourish in the area of Three Pagodas Pass in the absence of government officials—who regulate border trade in the town of Myawaddy, also in Karen State, which is the biggest official trading point between Thailand and Burma.

“Actually, said Soe Tun, “it doesn’t matter much if the Three Pagodas Pass trading post is delayed further, because trade flow through that area is still lower than in Myawaddy or Muse [on the Sino-Burmese border in northern Shan State].”

According to the Minister of Commerce, Burma currently has 16 border trading posts, four of which border Thailand. Negotiations are currently underway to open another Thailand-Burma post in Mese Township of Karenni State.

Additional reporting by Htet Naing Zaw