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Oil exports resume on Thai-Burma border

The Thai-Burma border checkpoint in Mae Sot, Tak Province, Thailand (Photo: DVB/ Wenying Seah)

Burmese soldiers have reopened ports on the Moei River opposite to Thailand’s Tak Province to trade after Thai authorities allowed oil exports to resume through pipelines to Burma’s Myawaddy Division.

Burmese forces reopened the ports, or jetties, on Tuesday night after closing 23 ports on the river-bank on Tuesday morning. This followed Thai officials’ recent decision to ban fuel deliveries through pipelines. They said the road tankers must take their cargoes across the Thai-Myanmar friendship bridge from Mae Sot.

The bridge cannot support big, fully laden fuel trucks, which instead usually offload their oil to the pipelines. Thai officials said their export licences required the fuel be delivered across the river by road, and banned pipeline deliveries.

The strict controls on the Thai side stalled about 40 oil tankers in Mae Sot, resulting in a fuel shortage in Myawaddy for nearly two weeks.

Burma’s local Border Guard Force (BGF), which closed Myawaddy’s ports, reportedly was upset it could not impose its usual informal tax on oil imports.

Tak governor Somchai Hathayatanti said after meeting local authorities on Wednesday that the BGF, led by Maj Gen Saw Chit Thu, had closed all 23 river ports on the Myawaddy side to imports from Mae Sot via Mae Ramat to Tha Song Yang District.

The problem was later resolved when oil exports via  the pipelines to Myawaddy were again permitted on Tuesday night.

Thai officials set a condition that operators must improve oil pipeline safety to meet proper standards within 30 days, he said.

This article originally appeared in the Bangkok Post on 25 March 2015.