BANGKOK: A low-intensity conflict in areas of Kayin State has not reduced bilateral trade, with the latest Ministry of Commerce figures showing a recent upsurge in commerce with nearby Thailand.
The trading gates including the Myawaddy crossing are periodically shut by either side. Most recently, The Bangkok Post last week said, Myanmar soldiers closed ports on the Moei river in retaliation for tightened oil transport control on the Thai side, though the main bridge crossing remain opened.
The closure lasted only about a day, though, before commerce was restarted.
Previous closures, such as some in 2011, lasted much longer, more severely affecting trade volumes and leading to more complaints from traders.
Ministry of Commerce sources have also said previously that some armed ethnic groups are involved in trade, allowing for transport to cross the border at points they control in return for a fee.
U Khin Zaw Oo, a resident of Myawaddy border town and well-known local writer, said trade seems to be consistent except on the odd occasion the border is closed.
“There are some conflicts and the gates close temporarily, but this hasn’t had a large impact on trade so far,” he said.
U Khin Zaw Oo added the closing border can be a larger problem for visitors hoping to pass through. Even with the difficulties, official figures show an increase in cross-border commerce with Thailand.
istry of Commerce figures show border trade between the two countries totalled US$800 million in 2014-15 fiscal year, an increase of about one-third on 2013-14 figures of about $600 million. Myanmar exports far less than it imports, having shipped $179 million worth of goods to Thailand in the fiscal year ending yesterday.
U Win Myint, director of the ministry’s Trade Promotion Department, said that while trade is increasing, there is still a large problem with illegal commerce.
“We have found that trade is increasing, but the situation [of illegal trade] is not getting better,” said U Win Myint. “We find more illegal trade and some trade participants avoid paying tax.”
Ministry of Commerce adviser U Maung Aung said Thailand’s official statistics show trade is about nine times larger than Myanmar’s statistics show, indicating Myanmar needs to do more to control illegal trade.
There are also 19 official border gates in Thailand, but only four in Myanmar connecting with its eastern neighbor – Myawaddy in Kayin State, Myeik and Kawthaung in Tanintharyi Region, and Tachileik in Shan State.