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Thais seek closer ties through bilateral business council

Burma’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, left, shakes hands with Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha during an MoU ceremony at Government House in Bangkok on 24 June 2016. (Photo: Reuters)

Thai businesses are ramping up ties with their Burmese counterparts in five main areas — agriculture, border trade, energy, industrial development and tourism — to tap into vast investment opportunities in the neighbouring country.

Panitarn Pavarolavidya, chairman of Thai­Myanmar Business Council, said the council’s first meeting held in Rangoon on 3 February focused on the proposed five sectors and set up a joint panel to look at potential obstacles and how to overcome them.

For instance, Panitarn said the Thai businesses have proposed that Burmam establish a central organisation to oversee agricultural prices, which fluctuate widely.

He said more port and rail development is needed in Burma to facilitate logistics and boost exports and imports. Part of this process involves amending logistics laws and setting up one­stop services to facilitate border trade.

Thailand also proposed that Burma use the baht as currency for border trade in addition to the US dollar, euro and Singapore dollar, in order to boost border trade.

Burma’s currency fluctuates widely, making it inconvenient in trade and investment, while the country’s energy grid is insufficient to support Burma’s economic development, said Panitarn. Only 35 percent of Burmese people can access electricity.

He said Thai businesses also proposed that Burma scrap the visa requirement for Thai visitors travelling via border checkpoints, and agreed to support the development of human resources in tourism and related sectors such as spa management, cultural management, entertainment, digital development and airport improvement.

Panitarn said each panel will update the partnership’s five sectors at the next meeting scheduled for March.

Plew Trivisvavet, chairman of the executive board of Stock Exchange of Thailand-listed Ch. Karnchang Plc, said the company is looking to increase its investment in infrastructure projects in Burma because the country needs to develop its roads, ports and power facilities.

He said the company is awaiting amendments to Burma’s investment law before making any investment decisions.

The Burmemse government is expected pass the new law in the next few months, which is supposed to stimulate and streamline domestic and foreign investment, increase investor protections, and create jobs that will diversify an economy heavily concentrated in agriculture and extractive industries.

This story was originally published by the Bangkok Post here.