By -Sai Hseng Hlaing/SHAN
Hundreds of lorries are parked in the northern Thai border town of Mae Sai, waiting to enter Tachileik, located in Burma’s eastern Shan State.
Border crossings have been reduced since September 17, creating a pile-up for Thai drivers of an estimated 600 trucks, which are carrying fuel, agricultural and food products, and other items. They are waiting to cross the Friendship Bridge, the main transport hub connecting the two countries.
On September 15, the Burmese and Thai governments agreed to allow 168 trucks to cross the border daily. But after the rapid spread of coronavirus in Burma, the virus that causes COVID-19, Thailand restricted it to six lorries per day.
Chan Myae Saw, the general administration development officer for Tachileik Township, told SHAN that the Burma government also restricted the flow of traffic. “It wasn’t fair to us. We agreed to allow 168 trucks per day (to cross), but they only allowed 6 per day. Since September 17, we’re also only allowing only 6 Thai trucks to enter our country.”
Thai and Burmese traders are concerned how long the border dispute will continue.
In Tachileik, which depends on exports from Thailand, supplies are already dwindling.
“Some products are almost exhausted. We can’t buy some goods. We’re worried that soon there won’t be anything left in the market,” Nang Hom, a Tachileik trader, told SHAN.
The prices of some goods in Tachileik are already rising because of the dispute. The government is trying to remedy the situation in the border town by sending fuel and food products from central Burma.
“The situation is a little complicated. But the prices of basic food products remain unchanged,” said Ne Win, deputy chair of Tachileik Township Fuel Trade Association. “We can’t wait until this dispute is resolved. We have to transport products domestically. If we bring things from Taunggyi the prices are the same, but it takes longer to transport them.”
Thai merchants are also suffering because of the border dispute.
The Nation reported on September 18 that Thai traders unable to export vegetables and food products to Tachileik have already lost a lot of money. It reported that Thailand exported products worth 12.2 billion baht ($386M) to Burma between October 2019 and August 2020. Most of the exports were food products, fuel, alcohol, cement, beverages and steel. During the same period, Burma exported products valued at 1.4 billion baht ($44M), mainly core metals and aluminum.