Burma’s peace process good for business: Thailand

The ongoing peace process in Burma that began in 2011 has been good for cross-border trade between the two countries, according to Thai security sources.

For instance, there were 352 monitored clashes between the Burma Army and the Thai-Burmese border based Karen, Karenni and Shan armed movements in 2011. But the number dropped to 105 in 2012, after Naypyitaw succeeded in concluding ceasefire agreements with 13 of them, according to a senior national security official.

Shan State Army (SSA) South's 727th Brigade commander Teun Kherh (right) exchanging gifts with UWSA's 775th Brigade commander Yang Guojong (left) on 29 December commander Yang Guojong on 29 December 2012. (Photo: www.blog.sina.com.cn)

“We hope this trend continues,” he said. “It means there will be increased flow of goods between the countries.”

Others however point out that Thailand’s troubles are not over with the prospects of peace in Burma. “One problem is the increasing rivalry between different factions of each state, which are on a head-on collision course if something’s not done to prevent it,” said one. “And it will not be to our interests.”

He gave as example clashes between Karen National Union (KNU)’s armed wing Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the former Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) that has since 2010 become Burma Army-run Border Guard Forces (BGFs) as well as confrontations, which were later resolved, between Shan State Army (SSA) South and the United Wa State Army (UWSA)
Another problem is the continued buildup of the Burmese armed forces that seems to be running counter to the peace process. “If we have a few boundary issues with Laos and Cambodia,” said another official, “we have plenty of them with Burma. It means if they are not peacefully resolved, the Royal Thai Army is going to have its hands full.”

And, not last and not least,” is the surging traffic and seizure of drugs coming across the border. The Punako People’s Militia Force (PMF) led by Ja Ngoi, opposite Chiangrai’s Mae Fa Luang district; Border Guard Force (BGF) # 1007 nominally commanded by Ja Pikoi, opposite Chiangmai’s Chaiprakarn district; and the United Wa State Army (UWSA) continue to figure prominently in one of the security officials’ reports.

Both PMFs and BGFs are recruited and formed by the Burma Army and allowed to operate in their community areas.


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