Thai-Myanmar trade hub reopens after 10 day shutdown for battle

Junta troops’ recapture of border villages leaves four dead, residents said.
By RFA Burmese
2024.04.30
Thai-Myanmar trade hub reopens after 10 day shutdown for battle Kawt Bein Police Station in Kayin state’s Kawkareik township on March 25, 2024
Lion Battalion Commando, Byu Har Column

The major border crossing point for trade between Thailand and Myanmar reopened on Tuesday after being closed for 10 days because of fighting between Myanmar junta forces and insurgents battling to end military rule, residents told Radio Free Asia.

Trucks once again crossed the main bridge for trade linking the Myanmar town of Myawaddy and Thailand’s Mae Sot although some damage to facilities from the fighting had yet to be repaired, a trader said.

“Administrative work related to border trade is being done using a paper system instead of the online system,” one businessman who declined to be identified given the sensitivity of border trade told RFA. “This is due to the fact that the damage caused by the fighting is being repaired.”

Thai authorities closed the bridge after insurgents from the Karen National Liberation Army and their allies attacked the main junta military base in Myawaddy in early April. There have been clashes, including junta airstrikes, since then but the fighting has eased in recent days after anti-junta forces withdrew from the main positions they had captured.

The businessman said the cargo bridge, known as the Friendship Bridge No. 2, reopened at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday and trucks had started operating as usual.

Another trader, who also declined to be identified for safety reasons, told RFA that the customs department had lost its internet connection, complicating trade procedures.

“It’s like going back in time,” he said. “Before the bridge was closed, work was done online,  now, it has to be done by paper, which makes it a bit difficult.”

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Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge No.2 was reopened on April 30, 2024. (Citizen journalist)

Agricultural products, including dried cassava and chillies, are the main items being exported from Myanmar to Thailand, while construction materials, household goods and food products mostly go the other way into Myanmar.

In Myawaddy, junta military personnel, who regained control of the junta’s Battalion 275 headquarters in Myawaddy on Wednesday, as well as police, immigration and customs teams, were on duty on their side of the bridge, the second businessman said.

Friendship Bridge No. 1, which is used by travelers moving between the two countries, was reopened on Saturday after being temporarily closed because of the fighting. Some banks in Myawaddy had yet to reopen, residents added.

Casualties

While the border reopened, parts of  eastern Myanmar’s Kayin State were still plagued by violence.

Junta forces raided two villages in the Kawkareik area, Kawt Bein and Kawt Pa Laing, in recent days as they retook territory from the Karen guerrilla force, and at least four civilians, including a woman, were killed, villagers told RFA.

RFA contacted Kayin state’s junta spokesperson Saw Khin Maung Myint for more information, but he did not respond by the time of publication.

Many villagers in the area remain displaced by the fighting, residents said.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Kiana Duncan and Mike Firn. 

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