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Thailand to boost funding for Rangoon-Mae Sot road upgrade

A "friendship bridge" serves as the road link between Burma's Myawaddy and Mae Sot in Thailand. (Photo: DVB)

The Thai government is stepping up efforts to boost the Rangoon-­Mae Sot trade link by approving a 1.8 billion baht ($53 million) budget to help Burma develop part of its road along the transnational route.

The cabinet backed plans to improve the 68-kilometre (42-mile) section of the road linking Endu and Thaton in southern Burma’s Mon State, for the sake of better transport, Thai Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said on Wednesday.

Traffic lanes will be expanded, among other works to make the road more travel­-friendly, he said.

Once completed, the road will help stimulate trade and investment in Thailand’s Mae Sot and Rangoon, he added.

Mae Sot is a remote district in the western province of Tak that is adjacent to Burma. It is among the border areas in 10 provinces that the government wants to develop into special economic zones, known as SEZs.

Authorities aim to promote industrial estates in these areas, generating investment and jobs as well as exports to neighbouring countries.

While Mae Sot is a key border district, Rangoon is Burma’s economic centre, playing a major role in distributing goods to other parts of the country, Arkhom said, stressing the need to boost transport between Mae Sot and Rangoon.

The Rangoon­Mae Sot trade link is also, on a macro scale, part of an ambitious plan to develop the East­West Economic Corridor (EWEC), which stretches from India to Vietnam via Burma, Thailand and Laos, he said.

Other parts of the route between Rangoon and Mae Sot have been improved, or are in a process of development. They include a section of road in Myawaddy, where construction under a 1.3 billion baht budget was finished last year.

The development of another 67-kilometre section connecting Koh Karek and Endu is also gaining momentum after Burma secured a loan from the Asian Development Bank, according to the minister.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak will visit Burma over the next two days to discuss further measures to promote trade and investment, Arkhom said.

Besides the infrastructure, the Thai cabinet has also agreed with preparations to sign a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Burma under the Greater Mekong Subregion Cross­-Border Transport Agreement, to allow passenger buses and goods trucks to drive through the Mae Sot­Myawaddy border pass without intermediary stops that can be time­consuming.

The MoU is expected to be ready for signing by December, Arkhom said.

This story was originally published by the Bangkok Post here