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Myanmar's businesses hit by Thai turmoil

Thailand's political struggles are affecting neighbour Myanmar's businesses and economic development.

YANGON: Thailand's political struggles are affecting neighbour Myanmar's businesses and economic development.

Months of domestic turmoil in Thailand has caused neighbouring Myanmar to feel its effects. One of the sectors hurt is tourism.

“About 80 per cent of flights into Myanmar transit at Bangkok airport. Therefore, it'll be difficult for European visitors to travel to Myanmar and I estimate that this will lead to a decrease of about 20 per cent of European visitors,” said Mr Bhone Paing Oo, executive committee member of the Myanmar Travel Association.

This has prompted industry players to urge authorities to introduce new initiatives to wean itself off its dependency on Thailand.

"We need direct flights into Myanmar,” said Mr Bhone Paing Oo.

“We need to participate in more travel and trade shows, and we should promote our tourism and culture through television and the internet."

Although many are unable to specify their exact business losses from the Thai coup, they are certainly feeling the slowdown in operations and delivery of products.

Myanmar imports goods regularly from Thailand, via avenues like sea and land, and these items range from construction materials to fertilisers.

Last year, Thailand's accumulated foreign direct investments into Myanmar was worth about USD$10 billion -- about 22 per cent of total investments into the country. This makes Thailand Myanmar's second largest foreign investor.

However, with the uncertain political situation in Thailand, Myanmar is increasingly looking to further diversify the number of countries it will be sourcing its goods from in the future.

“We can trade with not only the neighbouring countries, not only the Asian countries, but… also with the European countries,” said Dr Maung Aung, a Commerce Ministry advisor.

“This is a very good chance. We can do market diversification nowadays. If we cannot get the proper materials, proper imports from Thailand, we will change to another market.”

Still, authorities are concerned about a prolonged coup impacting Myanmar in two areas.

"All the business connecting with Thailand have difficulty (running) regular transactions,” said Dr Maung Aung.

He added that many Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand are at risk of losing their jobs as the political situation might cause Thai production to decline, prompting employers to reduce their worker headcount.

The government is also concerned that the political uncertainty may delay or indefinitely stall outstanding bilateral projects such as the development of economic zones. 

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