Thai industries fear trade slump due to Myanmar conflict

Picture courtesy of Wassana Nanuam

The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) voiced concerns over the escalating armed conflict in Myanmar, predicting a further slump in border trade and a surge in illegal workers from Myanmar into Thailand. The Thailand-Myanmar border trade, valued annually at 100 billion baht (US$2.7 billion), tends to suffer whenever conflict escalates, according to Kriengkrai Thiennukul, chairman of the FTI.

“There are fears that the trade value will decrease, impacting both sellers and buyers as Myanmar typically imports a diverse range of consumer goods from Thailand.”

Kriengkrai also pointed out that the conflict could disrupt transport and logistics, potentially causing shortages of goods among Myanmar nationals.

Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara, Foreign Affairs Minister, previously highlighted that Thai authorities had held discussions on the border trade situation following a 30% decline in activity in the Mae Sot district.

In response to the conflict, the government is also prepared to accommodate 100,000 displaced individuals fleeing from Myanmar after rebel forces took over Myawaddy, a border town opposite the Mae Sot district, said Suchart Chantaranakaracha, FTI Vice-Chairman.

“We are keeping a close eye on illegal migrant workers from Myanmar as the numbers are expected to rise in the wake of the conflict.”

Myanmar workers form the bulk of migrant workers in Thailand, contributing to 1.6 million out of a total of 2.6 to 3 million migrant workers in the country. These workers are employed across various fields, including food processing, fisheries, garments and textiles, automotive parts, electronics, rubber plantations, and construction.

In particular, they form a significant portion of the workforce in sugar cane farming, a labour-intensive occupation. Many sugar cane farmers resort to burning their crops due to a labour shortage, resulting in a significant increase in PM2.5 ultra-fine dust particles, reported Bangkok Post.

In the aftermath of a military coup against the democratically elected government in 2021, Myanmar has been hit with trade sanctions by the United States and several major European countries.

Kriengkrai, however, pointed out that these sanctions do not impact Thai companies in Myanmar, as their products are exclusively for the Myanmar market and are not exported to the US or European countries.

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Alex Morgan

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