Although the border crossing at Mae Sot (Thailand) has re-opened, COVID-19 containment measures continue to hinder the flow of goods. Among these is a mandate that goods be unloaded and re-loaded into Thai trucks before moving on. This has proved to be a slow and costly exercise, according to traders interviewed this week by the Myanmar Times, who complained of lengthy stalls and costly man-hours spent shuffling the cargo.
The pandemic has hampered land trade with Thailand since March, and redoubled in August when Myanmar began to experience its massive new wave of COVID-19 cases. The crossing was sealed for one week starting late last month, when a handful of cases were detected among Myanmar migrants in Mae Sot. Myanmar and Thai officials and private sector leaders are currently in talks to develop ways to both contain the coronavirus and preserve border trade, the Myanmar Times report continued.
COVID-19 was an inauspicious welcome for the Second Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge, a long-awaited bridge across the Moei River that finally opened in October of last year. It was part of a series of measures to boost trade between the two countries that has also included new MOUs to foster commerce at key crossings and a planned highway linking Dawei with the Thai border. And despite the pandemic, trade has remained relatively strong. Data for the 2019-2020 fiscal year showed growing trade between Myanmar and Thailand, especially for agricultural goods.