Preparations are underway to start operation of the 2nd Thai-Burma Friendship Bridge, connecting the Thai border town of Mae Sot in Tak Province and the Burma border town of Myawaddy in Karen State, by October 30, 2019.
Union Minister U Thant Zin Maung from the Ministry of Transport and Communications travelled to Myawaddy on October 5 to inspect the readiness of relevant departments and its Border Control Facilities (BCF) before holding a meeting with department officials and business associations to confirm the date to open the 2nd Bridge on October 30.
U Thant Zin Muang said the 2nd Bridge would speed up trade flows and encourage border trade is through the legal route.
“We have seen delays in the flow of trade through the 1st Friendship Bridge. After opening the 2nd Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge, our goals are to make border trade flow faster and to decrease trade through illegal routes. It is important all relevant departments collaborate to speed up trade flows through the official route.”
Burma business associations are expecting the unbalance of trade between the two countries to continue and predict Burma will, despite the opening of the second bridge, export less. U Kyaw Myo Naing, chairman of the Transportation and Services Association of Karen State, said that they want government to specifically take this issue into consideration.
Daw Thin Thin Myat, chairperson of Myawaddy Chamber of Commerce voice similar concerns on the exports in-balance between the two countries.
“We are glad to see faster flow of border trade, but trade needs to be a win-win situation [for both countries].” Daw Thin Thin Myat said. “If we see one hundred trucks coming from Thai side and only six trucks coming from Myanmar side, this will not workout well for us. If we want trade to be fair, we should also be able to export our agricultural products, such as corn and onions without limiting to seasons.”
Thai media reported that for the first eight months of this year, Thailand-Burma trade accounted for 18.3% of total border trade, totalling 55.0 billion baht. Exports made up 47.1 billion baht, with imports worth 7.88 billion.
The second bridge is part of the Mekong Economic Corridors scheme where Burma is located on two major economic corridors – the East-West Economic Corridor connecting Vietnam’s Dong Ha City with Rangoon’s Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ) via Cambodia and Thailand, and the Southern Economic Corridor connecting central Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand to the Dawei SEZ in south-eastern Burma.
The opening ceremony of the bridge was held on March 19, 2019 senior leaders from both countries; the State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha attended. Operations haven’t started after the first opening ceremony.
The construction of the 270-meter-long bridge started in 2015 with a total cost, including the bridge and its approach roads, estimated at 4.2 billion baht (approx. USD $138.5 million).