The news that Tachileik-Mae Sai Friendship Bridge will resume is one of those speculations that is frequently reported and offers much hope to local business owners, traders, and entrepreneurs who rely on border trade.
It has, however, been news that regularly appears in the media but is never substantiated.
On January 19, 2023, an official letter was issued by one of the departments under the SAC administration in Naypyidaw, instructing relevant authorities to get ready for the reopening of Mae Sai-Tachileik border checkpoint at the 1st Friendship Bridge on January 24.
The 1st Friendship Bridge connects Mae Sai town in Chiang Rai province in Thailand and Tachileik town in Tachileik District, Shan State, Myanmar.
“An instruction from Naypyidaw has been issued for the resumption to take place by the end of this month, although we do not yet know the details.We are also cautious about believing the news until the bridge is really reopened. Until recently, we had not trusted the news,” remarked Sai Shwe, who is a resident of Tachileik.
On January 20, Myanmar authorities assigned relevant officials to conduct a field visit and evaluation of the ground situation as part of their preparations for the prevention and reduction of the Covid-19 outbreak, as well as the reopening of the Myanmar-Thailand border friendship bridge.
According to a reliable source, in order to reopen the Myanmar-Thai border crossing bridge, relevant Myanmar officials have been instructed to undertake field inspections, and at least 100 cleaning workers have been employed along the border gate bridge.
“We were told that it will soon reopen.Cleaning seems to be taking place around the bridge and checkpoints. The general administration department at the district level has also had a meeting. Uncertainty exists over the precise reopening date. However, because it will facilitate cross-border trading and commutes, we sincerely hope that it will reopen,” a reliable source explained the situation and potential reopening of the border gate.
It is said that before the decisions regarding the resumption are put in place, the field inspection authorities must submit a report outlining the ground situation to the relevant department’s head office in Naypyidaw.
Following that, a report regarding the reopening of the crossing bridge must be sent to the relevant authorities stationed on the Mae Sai and Tachileik sides, as well as an informing letter intent to resume the bridge is to be sent to the authorities at the Thai side.
But, despite the speculation and the news that was announced on January 22, the border-crossing has not yet resumed. The officials from the two countries met at Mae Sai Friendship Bridge No. 1 and discussed issues regarding the containment and control of the Covid-19 outbreak as well as the screening of people who enter and leave the country.
On January 8th, the border crossings between China and Myanmar were officially resumed; as a result, the border crossings between China and Myanmar in Mong La also reopened.
However, only cargo trucks are permitted to cross the border through the China-Myanmar border checkpoint in Muse; no individuals are permitted to do so at this time.
The Myanmar-Thai Friendship Bridge linking Myawaddy and Mae Sot has also officially resumed on January 12, 2023.
Likewise, the Tachileik-Mae Sai border crossing will soon be reopened after the relevant Thai and Myanmar authorities have conducted a general assessment of the situation on the ground and an agreement has been reached, according to an expert on border crossings.
“Actually, there is no difference between the border crossings (in Mae Sod and Mae Sai) when you examine the actual ground situation. Several attempts to resume the checkpoints have been unsuccessful. Since it will help individuals who rely on the border trading route to ease a number of difficulties, people are hoping that it will reopen even though they are not overly optimistic about it,” said Sai Shwe (undercover name) from Tachileik.
The 1st Friendship Bridge connecting Tachileik and Mae Sai has been a vital border crossing and trading route for the people of both countries living on the borders.
The resumption of border-crossing is important because, for the Mae Sai-based Thai traders, Tachiliek, Shan State, is where the majority of their trading in food items, commodities, and building supplies takes place.
The locals of Tachileik also have to rely mainly on imported food products and commodities from Mae Sai, Thailand. During the three years that the border bridge gate was closed, the people of Tachileik experienced an increase in the price of goods and commodities as well as occasional shortages of goods.
“Both communities and residents from Mae Sai and Tachiliek are very much looking forward to the resumption of the bridge. Those running motorcycle taxis and carriers on the bridge also look forward to it. Supplies of food products, commodities, and medication to Tachileik (Shan State/Myanmar) come from the other side (Mae Sai, Thailand). Most children on Tachileik also attend school in Mae Sai. That’s why reopening the Friendship Bridge would alleviate a lot of hardships and inconveniences,” said a woman who owns a convenience store in Tachileik, expressing her desire for the bridge to reopen.
In addition, children and students from Tachileik who had been enrolling in the schools in Mae Sai, Thailand, have also lost their opportunities and rights.
Therefore, the reopening of the 1st Friendship Bridge between Mae Sai and Tachiliek is essential because it will not only ease border trade, which will have an impact on the economies and trade of the two countries, but also on students and children who live on the border, whose access to education depends on the bridge’s resumption.