CHIANG RAI – Thai border trade in Chiang Rai province is flourishing, driven by growing demand for Thai products in Laos and Myanmar.
The Thai Chamber of Commerce’s chairman for Chiang Rai Province Boontham Tipprasong , said the growth is partially boosted by re-exports to third countries, mainly China.
Many Thai goods are shipped to southern China, home to 200 million people, through Laos and Myanmar.
Thai shipments through the four permanent border checkpoints in Chiang Rai _ two in Mae Sai and one each in Chiang Khong and Chiang Saen _ have grown by 10-20% a year, with combined value projected to exceed 43 billion baht this year.
Import tariffs of goods to China are set at an attractive 6%, helping to bolster shipments from Laos and Myanmar, said Mr Boontham.
Popular products through the border checkpoints are frozen chicken, construction materials, consumer goods, gas and oil.
Mr Boontham said 80% of the goods supplied to China by Myanmar are Thai products.
He said tourism is another bright spot in the area thanks to improved roads and facilities near border towns in Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and southern China.
Bus service linking Chiang Rai town, Chiang Khong and Bokeo in Laos has also been available since last Wednesday with the opening of the fourth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River.
The bridge links Chiang Rai’s Chiang Khong district with Huay Sai town and Bokeo province in northern Laos.
The new bridge greatly facilitates the transport of cargo from Thailand to China along Route R3, which links Laos to Xishuangbanna and Yunnan province in China.
China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand have a joint development project known as the Economic Quadrangle under the Greater Mekong Subregion cooperation framework.
The new bridge will increase traffic through Chiang Khong, particularly Chinese tourists.
Mr Boontham proposed the government widen an 80-kilometre road linking Chiang Rai town with Chiang Khong to four lanes to prevent a bottleneck over the next 5-10 years, when border transportation is expected to boom.
The value of border trade through Chiang Khong is estimated at 13.6 billion baht this year, up by 8.8% from last year.