Sunday, July 15, 2012

Thein Sein due to arrive on July 22

Myanmar President Thein Sein has finally set July 22-24 for his visit to Thailand and agreements are expected to be reached on cooperation in various fields, including technical matters, Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdi said yesterday.

Thein Sein decided at the last minute to postpone his official visit to Thailand, during the World Economic Forum in Bangkok in late May, when pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi made a high-profile appearance at the forum.

Observers in Bangkok had speculated that Thein Sein was worried his presence in Thailand might by eclipsed by Suu Kyi in town but Nay Pyi Taw said the Myanmar leader was preoccupied with domestic affairs. There were protests in Yangon and Mandalay over power shortages and riots in the western state of Rakhine.

The Thai government has exerted efforts over the past month to clear the way for his visit to show that diplomatic relations were still warm enough to improve ties.

Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul discussed preparations for Thein Sein's visit with his Myanmar counterpart Wunna Maung Lwin on the sidelines of the Asean meeting here on Monday.

During the ministers' meeting, Thailand requested Myanmar to open four permanent border checkpoints in Prachuap Khiri Khan's Sing Khon, Kanchanaburi's Three Pagoda's Pass, Mae Hong Son's Ban Huay Ton Noon and Chiang Mai's Kew Pa Wok to connect to Myanmar's Tanintharyi, Pyathuangsu, Kayah State and Shan State respectively.

The permanent border passes would facilitate commerce between the two neighbours and lift living standards for local people.

Surapong also discussed the plight of some 50 Thais detained in Myanmar after crossing over to work in rubber plantations there. Wunna Maung Lwin took the issue into consideration and would ask authorities back home to investigate the case, Thani said.

The ministers acknowledged talks also between chiefs of the Thailand-Myanmar Joint Boundary Commission and want the body to resume talks on boundary demarcation soon.

Surapong has said the government would present the Eastern Seaboard and deep-sea port at Laem Chabang to inspire Thein Sein to move ahead with the port and special economic zone in Dawei, in the southern Myanmar.

The Dawei project, proposed by Thai construction company Italian-Thai Development, aims to link western Thailand to Myanmar and the Indian Ocean.